Loan Sharks Preyed on Crown Perth Casino Gamblers, Australian Commission Hears

  • The FCA has revealed multiple cases in which loan sharks have preyed on Crown Perth gamblers
  • One Crown patron received death threats after he borrowed and lost AU$10,000 (US$7,257)
  • The casino noted its system of banning lenders, but one evaded any punishment for 11 years
  • The inquiry recently heard of ties between Crown’s high roller business and organized crime
Businessman providing Australian dollars
In Australia, the FCA has accused Crown Resorts of turning a blind eye to loan sharks targeting gamblers in its Crown Perth casino. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Lending and death threats

Crown Resorts is still facing the heat in Western Australia (WA) as a Royal Commission assesses its suitability to hold a casino license. In the latest twist in the story, Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) has raised concerns over predatory lending on the gaming floor of the operator’s Crown Perth casino.

a gambler subjected to death threats after receiving a loan of AU$10,000 (US$7,257)

Speaking with the Royal Commission, the financial counselors’ body revealed details of multiple cases in which loan sharks targeted gamblers in or near Crown Perth. As reported by ABC Australia, one such instance saw a patron being subjected to death threats over a casino loan of AU$10,000 (US$7,257).

Crown Perth general manager of security and surveillance Brian Lee responded to the accusations last week. He said the casino had taken steps to issue bans to suspected loan sharks with a minimum term of two years. However, one predatory lender supposedly operated in the casino for 11 years before receiving a ban.

Victims come forward

Under current Australian law, casinos such as Crown Perth cannot provide credit to patrons. However, according to the FCA, Crown Resorts has turned a blind eye to the operations of loan sharks in the Western Australia casino. Speaking with ABC Australia this week, Lauren Levin, director of policy and campaigns for the FCA, described Crown’s inaction as a form of “willful blindness.”

he would “end up with concrete boots” if he failed to repay

The FCA noted a number of instances in which loan sharks preyed on Crown Perth patrons. One gambler, named Stuart, lost AU$10,000 he had received as part of a loan shark agreement on the casino floor. He later received intimidating texts from the lender, with one threatening that he would “end up with concrete boots” if he failed to repay.

Another Crown Perth gambler, Aarush, sought help from the FCA with a debt of AU$100,000 (US$72,574). Although he initially said he owed this to friends, he later confessed he borrowed the money from a loan shark in the casino. Aarush had to pay the lender around 50% on top of what he borrowed initially.

Loan shark avoids ban

Crown Perth general manager of security and surveillance Brian Lee has defended the casino’s operations by noting its system of banning any suspected loan sharks. However, the Royal Commission heard evidence that one such lender operated for more than a decade before the casino proceeded to ban him, despite staff voicing concerns about his behavior on numerous occasions.

A customer first complained about the suspected loan shark, a high roller known as Patron S, in 2009. The casino’s security and surveillance team later raised concerns around Patron S’s behavior on 18 separate occasions between 2013 and 2015. Despite this, the supposed lender only received a ban from the establishment in 2020.

In addition to its criticism of the casino itself, the FCA has also taken aim at the WA casino regulator. Levin has described the industry body as “a lame duck,” urging the Australian government to introduce a national regulator instead. “It doesn’t have the tools, it doesn’t have the regulation, it doesn’t have the desire,” she told ABC.

Criticism from all angles

In addition to this criticism in regard to predatory lenders, Crown Perth is also facing the heat on a number of other issues.

Last week, the Royal Commission heard of links between Crown Perth’s high roller business and organized crime. A police commissioner told the inquiry that criminals utilize the Hawala system to offset cash through casino junkets. He said this allows them to avoid detection from authorities while cleaning illicit funds.

kept its VIP room open during the last lockdown

Just a few days prior, WA officials also heard testimony from a Crown Perth employee who claimed the casino had transgressed COVID-19 lockdown rules. She told the commission that the casino kept its VIP room open during the last lockdown period. In contrast, Lee told officials that the gambling facility had permission from the authorities to stay in business.