In more Australian Casino related news, Crown Resorts’ Melbourne casino has incurred a substantial fine of $30 million due to its practice of allowing customers to cash self-written bank cheques before they are cleared. This penalty follows the findings of the 2021 Royal Commission investigation, which determined that the casino was not suitable to hold a license. Victoria’s gambling regulator imposed the additional fine, as this practice can contribute to gambling-related harm in both physical and online casinos in Australia, while also posing a risk for money laundering. The casino operator has been given until the end of 2023 to prove its capacity to effectively manage the establishment.
Crown Casino is losing money as a result of the findings of the 2021 Crown Royal Commission. The new fine, which was imposed in April 2023, is one of the consequences of the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) Crown’s findings. It is the third time that the Crown has faced harsh penalties as a result of the Royal Commission’s findings.
According to the new findings, the Melbourne Casino violated the Casino Control Act, which prohibits the use of cheques at the casino. The irregular cheque-clearing practice is mentioned in Chapter 15 of the Royal Commission’s final report, titled Miscellaneous Breaches. According to the report, between 2014 and 2019, Southbank, a Crown Melbourne subsidiary, maintained a bank account that customers used to deposit funds for gambling at the Melbourne casino.
The account that received “hundreds of millions of dollars” from patrons over a five-year period was found to be in violation of the Act. Instead of creating an account in its name to deposit patrons’ funds, Southbank established an alternative account where patrons could deposit their funds. Crown Casino will be fined as part of the commission’s efforts to prevent problem gambling and deter money laundering.
The findings are considered a significant violation by the commission due to their undocumented nature, prolonged duration, and undermining of critical controls regarding the use of cheques at the casino. The Royal Commission explained that the practice involved Crown Casino filling in the debt a patron accumulated on a blank cheque after the patron had completed their gambling activities when declaring the fine.
However, there was insufficient evidence to determine whether the Crown was involved in this practice. If this practice did occur, it would be an additional and serious violation of the Act. Previously, Victoria doubled Crown Royal Commission funding in 2021 to help solidify its case against Crown Resorts after uncovering serious evidence against the casino operator. As a result of the substantial evidence discovered, the investigation was expanded twofold, including allegations that the company may have paid insufficient casino taxes.
The Royal Commission’s investigation was also extended as a result of the increase. The commission was given enough time to thoroughly and appropriately scrutinize the critical information provided regarding Crown Melbourne’s eligibility to keep its casino license. As part of its initiatives, the Crown Casino group implemented several measures within its casinos, including cashless transactions. However, the casino operator’s changes were insufficient, resulting in a series of fines. Due to its proclivity to violate the rules, the casino has been hit with multiple penalties totaling $200 million in the last year.
The new fine was imposed by the commission to encourage the casino operator to work to stop any illegal activities that may be taking place within the gambling premises. The Crown Royal Commission demanded that the casino prohibit the use of bank and blank cheques when deciding on the new fines. The commission also requires Crown to review its current policies and procedures for accepting bank cheques, as well as investigate any unrecorded practices at the Melbourne casino.
According to VGCCC chair Fran Thorn, as a follow-up, the commission is addressing undocumented practices at the casino and will conduct a thorough investigation to ensure that no further instances exist. The commission issued a harsh statement, stating that it would not tolerate the casino concealing its practices in order to avoid investigation.
This stance stems from the realization that certain practices endanger patrons through gambling-related harm and undermine the commission’s ability to operate safely and with integrity.
The Australian gambling industry is currently facing significant challenges and scrutiny as several operators of land-based casinos have been fined for breaching regulations. The recent fine imposed on Crown Resorts’ Melbourne casino is just one example of the stricter enforcement and accountability measures being implemented. These actions reflect the growing commitment to ensuring responsible gambling practices and protecting the welfare of consumers.
Adding to the industry’s woes, Australia’s Star Casino recently made the unfortunate announcement of its plan to lay off 500 full-time employees. This decision underscores the economic impact and challenges faced by the gambling sector, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The reduced footfall and restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the virus have taken a toll on the industry, leading to financial difficulties and the need to restructure operations.
These developments highlight the urgent need for comprehensive reforms and a renewed focus on responsible gambling practices across the industry. Regulatory bodies are working diligently to enhance oversight and ensure that operators comply with regulations, safeguarding the interests of both customers and employees.
The recent fine imposed on Crown Resorts’ Melbourne casino, as well as the issues confronting the Australian gambling industry as a whole, mark a watershed point for the industry. Stricter rules and more scrutiny highlight the necessity of responsible gaming and consumer protection. The layoffs announced by Star Casino underline the industry’s economic difficulties, which have been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.
These conditions necessitate extensive reforms as well as a renewed commitment to creating a safe and sustainable gambling environment. Regulatory agencies must continue to work to improve supervision, enforce compliance, and protect the interests of both customers and employees. Operators must emphasize responsible gambling measures and show a genuine commitment to tackling issues such as money laundering and problem gambling.
As the industry evolves, it is critical for all stakeholders to work together to achieve a common goal of sustaining integrity, openness, and accountability. The Australian gambling industry can repair confidence and provide the groundwork for a more sustainable and responsible future by establishing strong processes and policies.