Casino Giant Crown Resorts Now Faces AUSTRAC Money Laundering Probe

  • Australia's financial crime watchdog is investigating possible AML breaches at Crown Melbourne
  • Proven violations could lead to large fines and threaten the operator's casino licenses
  • AUSTRAC's review of Crown Melbourne's handling of certain customers had raised concerns
  • Crown Resorts will learn of the separate ongoing NSW inquiry findings in February 2021
anti-money laundering investigation
Crown Resorts is facing a new investigation into potential anti-money laundering law breaches at its Crown Melbourne casino. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

The latest investigation

Australian casino operator Crown Resorts is now under investigation for potentially breaching anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financial laws at its Crown Melbourne casino. The casino giant received notice about the possible breaches from the country’s financial crime regulator, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC). 

news saw the company’s share price drop by over 9%

Crown Resorts announced this latest inquiry in a Monday morning filing with the Australian Stock Exchange. The news saw the company’s share price drop by over 9%.

If the investigation proves that the breaches did, in fact, take place at the company’s flagship Melbourne casino, it could lead to significant fines and threaten the operator’s casino licenses. Crown Resorts has casinos in Perth and Melbourne, with one property currently under construction in Sydney.

Potential breaches

AUSTRAC has confirmed to the Sydney Morning Herald its commencement of an enforcement investigation into the Crown Melbourne. According to a Crown statement, the watchdog’s Regulatory Operations branch raised concerns following a review that began in September 2019 concerning the Melbourne casino’s “management of customers identified as high risk and politically exposed persons.”

Potential breaches relate to Australia’s Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing Act 2006 and the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing Rules 2007.

Crown believes the possible cases of non-compliance link to “ongoing customer due diligence, and adopting, maintaining and complying with an anti-money laundering/counter terrorism financing program.” The company emphasized that it will be cooperating with the investigation.

The case has now been referred to the AUSTRAC enforcement team.

Previous allegations

This is not the first time that Crown Resorts has faced scrutiny for its casino operations in Australia. In 2019, local media reported allegations that Crown Melbourne had business links to junket operators with suspected ties to organized crime in Asia. There were also allegations of failure by Crown to put a stop to alleged money laundering at its Perth and Melbourne casinos.

The New South Wales (NSW) Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority has been conducting its own inquiry into the casino operator’s suitability for a Sydney casino license. The Crown Sydney casino is set to open in December; its development cost about AU$2.2bn (US$1.56bn). 

Former chief executive of Crown Resorts James Packer was among the executives who gave testimony earlier in October regarding this inquiry.  Some of the areas looked at include the company’s due diligence processes regarding global VIP operations, and Packer’s failure to sell a 19.99% stake in Crown Resorts to Melco Resorts & Entertainment. 

While Packer stepped down in 2018 as a director, the investigation revealed that the billionaire still has a strong influence over the company’s board while holding a 36% stake. Crown Resorts will learn the findings of this inquiry in February 2021.