Crown Resorts has received a new fine of AU$30 million ($20 million) from the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) over bank cheque practices at its Melbourne property. The decision was issued on Thursday and turned public via a press release.
VGCCC points out that the Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and Licence found that Crown ‘allowed patrons to gamble at the Melbourne casino by depositing bank cheques made out to themselves, and not to Crown, even before the cheque had cleared’.
VGCCC said that illegal bank cheque practice was a ‘serious contravention because it was undocumented, long-running and subverted the important controls on the use of cheques at the casino’. The Australian Casino Control Act 1991 prohibits the use of cheques at the casino except in limited circumstances. This prohibition is designed to prevent the use of cheques to extend credit to gamblers or for money laundering purposes.
In the same media notes, the VGCCC said its concern was caused by the Royal Commission’s findings that ‘Crown likely also accepted blank cheques in exchange for gambling chips. At the Royal Commission, it was suggested that this practice involved Crown writing the amount of the debt a patron incurred on the blank cheque after the patron had finished gambling.
The VGCCC said there is insufficient evidence to establish that Crown engaged in this practice. Nevertheless, the VGCCC will issue directions to Crown to ‘ban the bank and blank cheque practices at the Melbourne casino, ‘require a review of Crown’s current policies and procedures on accepting bank cheques’, and ‘investigate undocumented practices at the Melbourne casino’.
“This is the second time we’ve taken action on undocumented practices at the casino, and we will investigate further to ensure there are no more. To be clear, we will not allow the casino to conceal its practices to avoid scrutiny,” said VGCCC Chairperson, Fran Thorn.
“Practices like accepting bank cheques expose Crown to the risk of money laundering, put patrons at risk of gambling harm, and compromise our ability to ensure the casino runs with integrity, safety and fairness,” he added.
This is the third time the VGCCC has used its stronger enforcement powers to take disciplinary action against Crown for conduct uncovered by the Royal Commission. In May last year, the VGCCC fined Crown AU$80 million ($53 million) over its China Union Pay process and, in November 2022, issued Crown with a record fine totalling AU$120 million ($80 million) for breaches of its responsible service of gambling obligations.
In a company statement, Crown Resorts noted that Crown Melbourne ‘accepts the outcome from the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission’.
The group further states that ‘these practices have ceased, and we have implemented significant improvements to reduce and prevent risk across our business’.
The group notes that, following its new ownership and leadership reform (including its AU$8.9 billion takeover by Blackstone), the group is ‘driving whole-of-company reform’.
The company further notes that it will comply with the directions issued and work constructively with the VGCCC and the Government to address this and other issues raised as part of the Victorian Royal Commission’.