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Casino firm fined over illegal China dealings

Australian gaming operator Crown Resorts has been fined A$80m ($57.4m; £45.6m) for illegally accepting Chinese bank cards at its casino in Melbourne.

Regulators say the transactions were falsely classified as hotel services.

To deter money laundering and excessive gambling casinos in Australia are not allowed to accept bank cards.

Crown acknowledged its “historic failings” and says its top executives were in the process of reforming how the company operates.

On Monday, the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) said Crown had breached Australia’s casino regulations by allowing gambling funds to be withdrawn using credit or debit cards.

The regulator found that Crown had processed A$164m Australian dollars in China UnionPay card payments, drawing in A$32m of revenue in the process, between 2012 and 2016.

It said the transactions were falsely classified as “services” provided by the Crown Towers hotel in Melbourne.

However, patrons were given vouchers that could be exchanged for cash or chips at Crown’s neighbouring casino.

According to the regulator, the “clandestine” scheme also allowed some Chinese nationals to spend more in foreign currencies than was allowed under Chinese law.

“Crown benefited handsomely from its illegal conduct,” VGCCC chairwoman Fran Thorn said in a statement.

“The fine will ensure that Crown is stripped of the revenue it derived from the process and will send a clear message that it must comply with its regulatory obligations,” Ms Thorn added.

In response, the gaming group said its board and senior management were “committed to the delivery of a comprehensive reform and remediation programme to ensure Crown delivers a safe and responsible gaming environment”.

Crown – which operates integrated resorts in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney – is also under scrutiny from regulators who have alleged the company had knowingly dealt with criminal organisations then misled authorities about those dealings.

Its casino in Melbourne is currently only allowed to operate under the supervision of a government-appointed manager.

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