Crown fined $1m for disobeying Victorian regulator’s rules

By William Brown Updated
Crown CEO Steve McCann exits the business

Crown Resorts has been fined $1 million for disobeying the orders of the Victorian gambling regulator and failing to comply with regulations relating to vetting junket tour partners for criminal links.

The Australian Financial Review reports that the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation said the fine was the maximum amount it could impose on the James Packer-backed casino group for failing to comply with its regulatory obligations.

The commission said it issued the fine because Crown ignored its orders to “cease a relationship” with an “individual junket operator and his associates” and failed to comply with the relevant internal control statement regarding junket operations.

Commission chairman Ross Kennedy said the commission imposed the maximum $1 million fine because “it reflects the serious nature of Crown’s direct disobedience”.

“The amount of this fine reflects the seriousness of this matter, particularly Crown’s conduct in failing to immediately implement the requirements of the commission’s direction to cease a relationship with an unsuitable junket operator,” Mr Kennedy said.

This is the second seven figure fine to be issued by the regulator, which is set to be abolished after its dismal record regulatory Crown.

Maximum penalty increases from 2022 

The first fine in April related to Crown’s failure to vet high-roller “junket” tour partners for criminal links and other probity issues.

Changes to Victorian legislation passed in early 2021 have increased maximum potential fines from $1 million to $100 million, effective from 1 January 2022.

Crown’s dealings with junkets for high roller gamblers have plunged the ASX-listed group in turmoil for the past three years, after it was revealed that some of its most important junket partners had extensive links to major organised crime syndicates.

That sparked the Bergin inquiry in New South Wales, which found in February that Crown was unfit to open its new Sydney casino and the Victorian Finkelstein royal commission, which stopped short of cancelling Crown’s Melbourne licence outright but placed the gambling giant under unprecedented scrutiny for the next two years.

Crown still faces the West Australian royal commission into its Perth Casino licence, due to report in March.

It is also still under an enforcement investigation from financial crimes watchdog AUSTRAC over breaches of money laundering laws, which analysts estimate could cost the group as much as $100 million in fines.

Crown hit with $1m fine in April

In April, a $1 million fine was slapped on Crown Resorts for its eight year partnership with junket operators linked to criminal groups.

The Victorian regulator told Crown that it failed to explain its lax oversight of junket partners and that it breached the law for failing to have a “robust process to consider the ongoing probity of junket entities.”

“The Commission assessed Crown’s engagement with certain individuals who were junket operators, junket agents and/or junket players at the Melbourne casino,” the regulator said.

“The Commission concluded that in respect of the analysed individuals, the processes implemented by Crown were not robust, as required.

Crown also failed to gather, record and check information about its junket partners to assess their probity, the VCGLR said.

Crown’s most prominent junket relationship was with the now arrested Alvin Chau, the boss of the defunct Suncity junket, which would go on to have its own room in Crown Melbourne, where the Victorian royal commission heard $5.6 million was found in a cash drawer in apparent breach of anti-money-laundering regulations.

Mr Chau is an alleged former triad member who has reportedly been banned from entering Australia.

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