Crown Resorts has introduced new requirements for gamblers who want to transfer funds to the casino giant, which is scrambling to improve compliance before an urgent review of its Victorian licence by the state government.
In a belated attempt to stop money laundering at its Melbourne and Perth casinos, Crown will now accept funds only from its members' personal bank accounts and will refuse any transfer from a trust or business account.
Crown Sydney opened on Monday but the casino is yet to start operating.Credit:Rhett Wyman
Under the major reforms, cash deposits made to Crown's bank accounts will no longer be released to patrons, who will also be required to provide a receipt before funds can be credited to their private accounts.
The new probity measures follow the recent inquiry by the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority, which uncovered a litany of breaches, particularly at Crown's flagship casino in Melbourne's Southbank.
The inquiry heard that the ANZ and Commonwealth banks had shut down some accounts after Crown patrons used them to make a string of suspicious cash transactions totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The accounts were held through two shell companies Crown set up called Southbank Investments and Riverbank Investments, the inquiry heard.
Gamblers transfer funds to Crown's accounts and are then issued with credit or chips so they can play at the casino's tables.
The Victorian government has brought forward its review of Crown casino’s licence.Credit:Scott McNaughton
Customers could use the accounts to deposit money for gambling with "privacy", given the nondescript company names hid the fact that the money was going to a casino. But that also made them susceptible to misuse by criminals.
In a letter sent to members on December 24, Crown issued strict instructions to gamblers about the transfer of funds into gambling accounts. Crown claimed that the changes were necessary "in order to meet its legal obligations".
Gamblers will be required to provide their name and Crown rewards number when sending funds to Crown, while international transfers will need to include the details of the bank or financial entity involved.
"Any other description or narration on the transfer must either state that the purpose of the transfer is for gaming or gambling, or to repay a debt. Crown will not release any funds where it considers that the description or narration is misleading," the letter said.
Crown Resorts declined to comment on the changes when contacted by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.
Social justice campaigner Reverend Tim Costello said Crown had been shamed into action after causing enormous community harm for more than two decades.
"These belated measures are an obvious admission that they have broken the law. Crown has acted with impunity and arrogance for years, but now they are desperate to prove to the Victorian regulator that they are a fit and proper organisation to hold a licence," he said.
He said the NSW inquiry into Crown had "put the acid" on the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation to properly investigate the casino's links to money laundering and organised crime.
James Packer giving evidence to the NSW inquiry in October. Credit:
Over more than 60 days of public hearings, the NSW inquiry revealed a series of "specific failings and shortcomings" at Crown, including repeated non-compliance with anti-money laundering laws, close links to dubious junket operators in China and the "deleterious" impact of its major shareholder, James Packer.
Crown management admitted to shortcomings in its anti-money-laundering processes but vowed to introduce a range of new measures.
Counsel assisting the inquiry, Naomi Sharp, SC, had said steps taken by Crown to remedy the problems were "too little too late".
Crown Sydney opened on Monday but the fate of the casino at the $2 billion Barangaroo complex is as yet undecided.
Ms 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".
The Age and the Herald recently revealed that the Andrews government had fast-tracked its next major review of Crown Resorts’ Melbourne licence following the damning findings in NSW.
Gaming Minister Melissa Horne brought forward by two years the seventh review by the VCGLR to determine Crown's suitability to hold Victoria's sole casino licence.
The licence review, which was not expected until 2023, will begin shortly when Ms Horne appoints a dedicated sessional commissioner to lead it. The last licence review was in 2018.
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