Are you a 'high-roller'? Australia's Crown casino sets a threshold on patrons to curb money laundering

Tuesday 15th December 2020

Crown Resorts has instructed some of its high-rollers to declare they have assets worth more than AU$2.5 million (NZ$2.66m) or that they earn more than AU$250,000 (NZ$266,000) a year, in a belated attempt to stop money laundering at its Melbourne and Perth casinos.

Declaration forms have been sent to some "black card" holders, Crown's most-valued patrons, who are also required to have an accountant verify that their wealth and annual salaries exceed the threshold.

Some black card holders have also been asked to reveal their occupations, employer details and information about the ownership of their businesses.

Those who fail to complete the declarations will face bans from Crown's gaming tables or cancellation of their reward membership services, including access to VIP rooms.

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Crown has warned those required to make declarations that the information would be used for its customer identification processes and might be shared with government agencies or "third parties for the purpose of undertaking additional checks".

Crown did not respond to questions from The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald and would not say if other high-roller classes, including platinum, gold and silver card holders, had been required to make declarations about their wealth, salaries and employment details.

The casino giant's rearguard action follows the inquiry by the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority, which uncovered a litany of probity failings, particularly at Crown's flagship Melbourne casino.

Over more than 60 days of public hearings, a series of "specific failings and shortcomings" emerged, including repeated non-compliance with anti-money-laundering laws, close links to dubious junket operators in China and the "deleterious" impact of major shareholder James Packer.

Crown management admitted to shortcomings in its anti-money-laundering processes, but vowed to introduce a range of new compliance measures.

Counsel assisting the inquiry, Naomi Sharp, SC, had said steps taken by Crown to remedy the problems were "too little too late".

Crown has been forced to delay the opening of its $2 billion Barangaroo casino in Sydney, which was due to happen on Monday.

Sharp told the inquiry that "Crown Sydney is not suitable ... to hold the licence and Crown Resorts is not suitable to be a close associate of the licensee".

In September 2019, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre also identified concerns about Crown during a compliance assessment of Crown Melbourne's management of customers "identified as high-risk and politically exposed persons".

That AUSTRAC assessment came shortly after The Age, the Herald and 60 Minutes revealed that some of Crown's most important high-roller "junket" tour partners were linked to powerful Asian criminal syndicates and money launderers, triggering the NSW inquiry.

AUSTRAC chief executive Nicole Rose issued a fresh warning last week about the junket sector, which she said presented multiple criminal threats to the Australian casino industry.

"Money laundering and financial crime enables serious criminal activity, such as drug trafficking and human trafficking, which causes harm to our communities," she said in a statement.

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