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Crown Melbourne faces fine of up to AUS$100m over blank cheque practice

| By Richard Mulligan
Crown Melbourne faces another multimillion-dollar fine in Victoria after the Australian state’s gambling regulator commenced disciplinary proceedings over its bank and blank cheques practices.
crown towers

Just four months after it was issued with an AUS$80m (£45.5m/€53.3m/US$57.5m) fine over its illegal “China Union Pay” process, the casino could now be hit with a penalty of up to AUS$100m.

In the latest setback for the casino, the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) issued a notice compelling Crown to provide information relating to breaches of section 68 of the Casino Control Act that were discovered during the 2021 Royal Commission investigation. This section of the act prohibits extending credit to patrons in connection with any gaming or betting.

The actions available to the VGCCC include imposing a fine of up to AUS$100m and varying Crown’s casino licence.

Crown was found to have breached Section 68 of the Casino Control Act by exchanging bank cheques – to which the patron was the payee – for gambling chips valued at the face value of the cheque. It also permitted patrons to exchange blank cheques made payable to Crown in exchange for chips used to gamble at the Melbourne casino.

Fran Thorn, chair of the VGCCC, said: “The Casino Control Act establishes restrictions on Crown’s financial interactions with its patrons. These restrictions are vital because they protect patrons from gambling beyond their means and guard the Melbourne Casino against criminal influence and exploitation.

“The Royal Commission found that Crown adopted practices involving the use of blank cheques and bank cheques that breached these important restrictions.”

The disciplinary process is the third brought against Crown Melbourne based on the findings of the Royal Commission into the Victorian Casino Operator and Licence, which deemed it to be “unsuitable” to hold the Melbourne Casino Licence and failed to comply with several legislative obligations.

The casino has been supervised by a state-appointed special manager since multiple governance failures were outlined by the 2021 Royal Commission.

In May 2022, the VGCCC utilised new enforcement powers to impose a fine of AUS$80m on Crown relating to the Royal Commission’s findings that Crown had implemented its illegal “China Union Pay” process.

In July 2022, the VGCCC commenced disciplinary proceedings against Crown concerning the Royal Commission’s findings about Crown’s approach to responsible gambling. The VGCCC is currently considering Crown’s response to these disciplinary proceedings and will make a further announcement once it has completed those considerations.

The Victoria investigation built on the Bergin report, which found that Crown was unsuitable to operate a casino in New South Wales. The company was also deemed unfit to operate a casino in the Barangaroo region of Sydney.

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