Victoria’s new casino regulator has hit Crown Melbourne with a massive AU$80 million (US$57.5 million) fine for the illegal use of China UnionPay cards – a process uncovered during last year’s Royal Commission.
The record fine, only made possible by recent amendments to the Casino Control Act which raised the maximum fine allowable from AU$1 million (US$715,000) to AU$100 million (US$71.5 million), was announced by the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) and comes less than two months after it first launched disciplinary proceedings.
Crown’s China UnionPay process saw Crown Melbourne allow patrons to use credit or debit cards to access funds to gamble, facilitating access to nearly AU$164 million (US$118 million) between 2012 and 2016, from which Crown derived estimated revenue of more than AU$32 million (US$23 million).
The Royal Commission found that the China UnionPay process was in breach of the Casino Control Act 1991.
“Crown’s CUP process was a clandestine, deliberate process, which not only breached the Casino Control Act but was also devised to assist patrons to breach China’s foreign currency exchange restrictions,” said VGCCC Chairperson Fran Thorn.
“Crown was aware of the risk that the CUP process could be illegal but decided to run that risk. In doing so, it showed no regard for upholding its regulatory obligations. Indeed, it went to some lengths to hide what it was doing.”
“Crown benefited handsomely from its illegal conduct. The fine will ensure that Crown is stripped of the revenue it derived from the CUP process and will send a clear message that it must comply with its regulatory obligations.”
The VGCCC said it was also conducting a separate investigation into other mechanisms which persisted after 2016 that enabled cards to be used to access cash at Crown Hotels, which was then potentially used for gambling.
If found to have committed further breaches, each instance may attract a further fine of up to AU$100 million.
The final report of the Royal Commission, delivered in October 2021, found Crown Melbourne unsuitable to hold a casino license in its current form but provided a two-year window in which to return to suitability under the supervision of a government-appointed Special Manager.