Australian Casino Group to Pay AUD450 Million in Money Laundering Settlement
Australia’s federal court ordered the country’s largest gambling and entertainment group to pay a penalty of AUD450 million (US$300.3 million) for violating several anti-money laundering laws.
Crown Resorts, a subsidiary of Blackstone Inc. that runs two of Australia's leading casinos, is on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars following an investigation by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), which discovered that the entertainment group had committed several breaches against the country’s Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act.
As Australia’s financial watchdog, AUSTRAC is mandated with detecting abuse of the country’s financial system in order to protect it from organised crime and corruption.
Crown admitted in the settlement that it operated outside of the AML/CTF Act and that it “ did not have appropriate systems and controls” to manage the risks of its actions. The casino group further acknowledged that it did not operate under “appropriate oversight” by its board of directors or senior management.
The high-risk violations committed by Crown Resorts include a business relationship with a major casino junket operator—a person who brings the casino customers in exchange for a fee—despite being aware that the operator had organised crime connections.
Crown also “failed to appropriately monitor billions of dollars in transactions”, including international payment flows, which hindered its capacity to identify suspicious financial activity, as well as report such activity to AUSTRAC and law enforcement.
And from March 2016 to December 2018, the one of the casino group’s private gaming rooms was home to no less than 75 incidents of suspicious activity that dirtied millions in cash. One casino junket operator reportedly had exclusive access to the room in question.
Acting AUSTRAC CEO Peter Soros remarked how the outcome, the darkest in the casino’s history, sent a strong message to the country’s entire gaming industry.
“The casino industry by its very nature, faces serious risks of exploitation by criminals seeking to launder the profits of their illicit enterprises. These criminals are making their money by harming the community, whether by running scams, selling illicit drugs or trafficking innocent people,” Soros said.
He further commented how this was “one of the largest penalties ever ordered against a casino globally” and how it “serves as a clear warning” to anyone charged with a casino or gaming licence in Australia to protect the country from serious financial crime.
The AUS$450 million fine caps off the total damages for Crown Resorts to AUS$680 million ($455 million), ever since AUSTRAC submitted the initial charges against the casino group back in 2020.