AUSTRAC Penalizes SkyCity

Robert Longthorpe - Senior Writer
Robert Longthorpe
23 December 2022 in News
SkyCity austrac Battle

While even the best online casinos in New Zealand face their issues from time to time, a reputable real money casino will not succumb to being a fraudulent lending facility if properly regulated. However, money laundering seems to be a common practice with land based casinos now days. Recently, Crown Resorts reportedly ran junket operations from its Perth facility. This week, Australia’s Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) recently concluded an investigation of SkyCity Entertainment Group and found ample evidence that the operator is breaking anti-money laundering laws. The regulator is now preparing to take SkyCity to court.

SkyCity Entertainment Group, a casino operator based in New Zealand, has one hotel casino resort in Australia, the SkyCity Adelaide.

AUSTRAC to Drag SkyCity to Court

AUSTRAC began investigating SkyCity Adelaide while it was in the middle of a separate investigation on Crown Resorts and Star Entertainment. According to a recent report from ABC News, AUSTRAC has collected enough evidence against SkyCity and is preparing to drag the operator to court on charges of systemic and serious non-compliance with anti-money laundering and safe gambling rules.

A Closer Look at AUSTRAC’s Findings

The federal court has received AUSTRAC’s findings, which include details of a SkyCity customer who used AU$ 85 million at SkyCity Adelaide. Spending this amount is not a crime, but this customer had family members who had served terms in prison for dealing drugs.

AUSTRAC also found SkyCity Adelaide guilty of failing to perform due diligence checks on 124 players. The regulator has submitted case studies of 59 SkyCity customers involved in various criminal activities.

For example, Customer 29 informed the casino that he was a meat packer. Although meat packers in Australia earn only A$28.50 per hour, this customer spent close to AU$ 56 million in the SkyCity casino.

Customer 30 is another SkyCity customer belonging to a drug dealing family, who spent more than AU$34 million in the casino over four years. USTRAC has submitted documents proving that he paid the casino cash obtained from criminal activities. Although the casino banned him in August 2021, it did not provide a reason for doing so.

AUSTRAC also has evidence to show that SkyCity employees were aware they had customers with criminal backgrounds. The operator knew their customers had records of money laundering and other criminal activities.

Court to Decide Next Move

The federal court has to scrutinize AUSTRAC’s findings and impose penalties on SkyCity. But before that, it will allow SkyCity to review AUSTRAC’s allegations and respond to them.

The AUSTRAC investigation is another blow to the gambling industry in Australia, which is already facing several difficulties. Recently, Star Entertainment and Crown Resorts had to face civil and financial penalties after they admitted failure to comply with anti-money laundering and safe gambling laws.

Star and Crown in Trouble

AUSTRAC had dragged Star Entertainment to court after completing a joint investigation of the operator with NSW and Queensland regulators and the police. This investigation commenced in September 2019.

Star was penalized for allegedly permitting its customers to initiate cash transactions through unregulated and unapproved channels. AUSTRAC also accused Star of violating federal anti-money laundering laws and doing business with high-risk customers.

AUSTRAC decided to investigate Star after an NSW investigation resulted in a temporary loss of license for the operator in October 2022. Star also had to pay NSW regulators a fine of A$100 million for violating laws.

Nicole Rose, the CEO of AUSTRAC, stated that casinos ought to comply with anti-money laundering laws strictly. By imposing heavy penalties on Star and Crown Casinos, AUSTRAC hopes to force the gambling industry to take gambling regulations seriously.

Crown Melbourne has to pay the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) two fines coming up to AU$120 million for violating the responsible gambling laws of South Australia. The operator failed to stop its customers from gambling continuously for long periods, sometimes over 24 hours.

Australia Takes a Closer Look at Gambling Laws

Australian states with legalized gambling have taken these violations seriously. They have decided to take a second look at their gambling laws and plug loopholes, if any. The ongoing problems in the gambling industry, many of which involved smaller operators too, indicate the pressing need to amend existing gambling laws.

Australian states enjoy a monopoly over their gambling industries as the federal government hasn’t enacted a blanket law that applies to all states. However, the federal government can influence politics at the state level, and this influence will play a role in any amendments to existing gambling regulations that legislators will discuss in the future.

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