VGCCC fines Crown AU$30m over blank cheque policy
The latest fine of the controversial casino operator came about after Crown opted to allow patrons to gamble at its Melbourne Casino through cheques made out to themselves, rather than the casino, even before the cheque had cleared.
This is a violation of the Victorian Casino Control Act 1991 which prohibits the use of cheques at a casino, with a few specific exceptions. The policy is designed to prevent the casinos from extending credit to gamblers and as an anti-money laundering measure.
The large nature of the fine was due to it being an undocumented and long-running practice at the casino that subverted important controls. Based on the information uncovered, the VGCCC said it would be further investigating undocumented procedures at Crown.
“This is the second time we’ve taken action on undocumented practices at the casino, and we will investigate further to ensure there are no more,” said chairperson Fran Thorn. “To be clear, we will not allow the casino to conceal its practices to avoid scrutiny.
“Practices like accepting blank cheques expose Crown to the risk of money laundering, put patrons at risk of gambling harm and compromise our ability to ensure the casino runs with integrity, safety and fairness.”
The findings of the 2021 Royal Commission
The information that led the VGCCC to make the enforcement action stemmed from the findings of the 2021 Royal Commission into the business’ Crown Melbourne property.
In that case, commissioner Ray Finkelstein opted to find the company “unsuitable” to hold a casino licence, but held off from immediate cancellation.
The VGCCC said it was also “concerned” regarding the Royal Commission’s findings that Crown likely accepted blank cheques in exchange for chips.
In Finkelstein’s report it was suggested that this practice involved Crown writing the amount of debt an individual had incurred on the cheque following the conclusion of the person’s gambling session.
While the VGCCC said that if such a practice occurred it would be a “serious contravention of the Act”, but ultimately decided that there was insufficient evidence to establish that the casino engaged in this activity.
Following the penalty, the commission has ordered Crown to ban the blank cheque practices at its Melbourne casino and asked for a review of Crown’s current policies and procedures for accepting blank cheques.
Third time Crown issued with financial penalty
This is the third time that the VGCCC has decided to issue a financial penalty to Crown due to conduct unearthed by the Royal Commission.
In May 2022, the regulator fined the operator $80m for breaches related to its China Union Pay processes and, in November the same year, the casino was fined $120m for failures in its responsible gaming obligations.
“Crown Melbourne accepts the outcome from the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission,” said a Crown Resorts spokesperson.
“These practices have ceased and we have implemented significant improvements to reduce and prevent risk across our business.
“Under new ownership and leadership, our Future Crown programme is driving whole-of-company reform as we continue to uplift our culture and build a Crown that exceeds the expectations of our stakeholders and the community.
“We will comply with the directions issued and work constructively with the VGCCC and the government to address this and other issues raised as part of the Victorian Royal Commission.”