Crown Melbourne Casino Hit With AU$80m Fine Over Illegal Chinese Transactions

  • The casino profited by an estimated AU$32m from the illegal payments
  • From 2012 to 2016, Chinese nationals could only transfer up to US$50,000 out of the country
  • Crown gave false hotel receipts to Chinese gamblers to get around the annual transfer limit
  • Crown could face further disciplinary action over other possible offenses
Crown Melbourne
The VGCCC has issued an AU$80m fine to Crown Melbourne over its role in processing illegal Chinese transactions. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A huge fine

The Crown Melbourne casino has been handed a record-breaking AU$80m (US$57.6m) fine for helping gamblers illegally transfer funds out of China. The revelations first came to light during a royal commission investigation into the Crown Resorts property. Many gamblers were able to use a bank card from China Union Pay for gambling purposes from 2012 until 2016. 

generated over AU$32m (US$23m) in revenue from the illegal payments

According to Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) estimates, Crown Melbourne helped process transactions worth almost AU$164m (US$118m) and generated over AU$32m (US$23m) in revenue from the illegal payments. There were violations of both the Casino Control Act in Victoria and Chinese laws; the fine issued on Monday was deemed appropriately sized due to the seriousness of the illegal conduct.

No sympathy for Crown

While VGCCC chair Fran Thorn admitted that Crown cooperated with the investigation, she believes that the fine is fully deserved. Thorn said: “Crown’s CUP process was a clandestine, deliberate process, which not only breached the Casino Control Act but was also devised to assist patrons to breach China’s foreign currency exchange restrictions.”

She also said that Crown was clearly aware of the risks, but decided to proceed anyway, showing no regard for its regulatory obligations. The casino even tried to hide its tracks. 

Crown Melbourne began to give false hotel services receipts to Chinese gamblers

From 2012 to 2016, Chinese nationals could only transfer up to AU$69,500 (US$50,000) out of the country to another jurisdiction annually. To get around this law, Crown Melbourne began to give false hotel services receipts to Chinese gamblers. The gambler would pay the fake bill through their China Union Pay card and get a voucher from the staff which they could then exchange for casino chips. 

Further action is possible

There has been a big crackdown by Australia’s gambling regulators in recent years following numerous scandals. Up until last year, the max fine that the VGCCC could issue was AU$1m (US$719,700). Following changes, it can now impose a fine of up to AU$100m (US$72m). This is the first time that the regulator has used its new wider-reaching powers. 

Crown Resorts has casinos in Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth. It is in the process of being acquired by US private equity firm Blackstone.

The Victoria royal commission stated in October 2021 that Crown was guilty of “disgraceful conduct” and that it would lose its casino license in Melbourne if it does not properly make major changes to how it operates by next year. The VGCCC is considering additional disciplinary proceedings against the casino company relating to other royal commission findings. A VGCCC investigation is ongoing into other procedures that were in place after 2016 that saw people being able to use cards to access cash from Crown Hotels.