Queensland’s gaming regulator has launched a behind closed doors investigation into The Ville casino in Townsville and The Reef Hotel Casino in Cairns following allegations The Ville paid an unlicensed junket operator to attract high rollers.
A joint investigation by Australian media outlets The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and 60 Minutes and reported late Sunday alleges that The Ville paid Melbourne businessman Lawrence Fu non-disclosed benefits including cash and gambling credit to bring Asian high rollers to the property in breach of the state’s Casino Control Act.
It also claims The Ville’s CEO, Michael Jones, had viewed tough new laws imposed upon Crown Melbourne following last year’s Royal Commission as an opportunity for his Queensland casino to lure players north. The report says Jones had been told that high rollers were “shitting themselves” about the prospect of gambling at Crown Melbourne due to strict new KYC requirements.
In a text message obtained by the media outlets, Jones is reported to have written, “I heard that. Presents good opportunities for us because I’ve been told that many simply won’t go to crown [sic] if they have to provide that disclosure.”
According to the reports, the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation has now launched a quiet investigation into The Ville as well as The Reef, neither of which are covered by an ongoing inquiry in Star Entertainment Group’s Queensland operations.
“Enforcement outcomes … can include but are not limited to penalties against casino operator via prosecution (particularly for serious matters) or penalty infringement notice,” the Queensland gaming regulator said.
Sunday’s reports also reveal that another high roller at The Ville, Paul Desmond, has alleged that Jones offered him a similar deal to that it claims was provided to Fu, although the offer was never acted upon.
“They [The Ville] were offering a percentage if I could fill a jet [with high rollers],” Desmond said. “We had several talks. If I could fill a jet, I’d get a percentage of what the turnover was.”
The current review into Star Entertainment Group’s Queensland casinos is the fifth such review conducted Australia-wide since 2019 following similar reviews into both Crown and Star in Sydney and Royal Commissions into Crown in Melbourne and Perth. The findings of the review into The Star Sydney are due to be handed down before the end of the month.