VGCCC Slams Crown Resorts With A $120 Million Fine

Blackstone Group fined for Crown Casinos

Life as owners of disgraced casino giant Crown Resorts has not started well for Blackstone Group. The American investment company is attempting to rebuild Crown’s shattered reputation amidst a background of legal action. The Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) fined Crown Resorts $80 million earlier this year following a saga revolving around casino deposit methods. Now the VGCCC has slammed Crown Resorts with an additional $120 million fine.

A long-running inquiry found Crown Resorts guilty of large-scale money laundering, mostly through its casino VIP program. Crown Resorts disguised gambling transactions as hotel expenses for China UnionPay card users. The process circumnavigated the Chinese bank’s strict non-gambling rules.

The latest $120 million fine from VGCCC is for Crown Resorts for failing its Responsible Service of Gambling obligations. A royal commission uncovered instances of Crown Resorts consistently failing to prevent gambling harm. For example, there are numerous accounts of patrons gambling for 24 hours or more in the high roller casino. In addition, the inquiry showed evidence of Crown Resorts patrons using plastic picks or other devices to simulate automatic play on some of the casino’s pokies.

$100 million of the fine relates to its responsible gambling failings. Moreover, the extra $20 million relates to allowing patrons to use devices to auto-play pokies. It marks the first time the VGCCC has imposed the new $100 million maximum.

VGCCC Chairman Condemns Crown Resorts

Fran Thorn is the Chairperson of the VGCCC. Thorn wants the massive fine to act as a stark warning to other casino operators. Furthermore, Thorn was not backward coming forwards in her assessment of Crown.

“At the Royal Commission, Crown accepted the Responsible Service of Gambling as both a legal obligation and a condition of its social licence to operate. For a long time, Crown failed in its legal and moral obligations. These include ensuring it provided its gambling products and services in a matter which minimised potential harm to its patrons, their families, friends, and communities.”

“The fines totalling $120 million VGCCC imposed on Crown sends a powerful message to Crown that the VGCCC does not tolerate misconduct that exposes our community to increased risks of gambling harm.”

“These were not isolated breaches. They were part of a pattern of extensive, sustained and systemic failures by Crown that spanned roughly 12 years. We urge all gambling licence holders to read this decision. This disciplinary action also sounds a warning to all in the Victorian gambling industry. We expect them to do everything they can to minimise the harmful impacts of gambling. The Commission will be resolute in pursuing our new requirement to regulate for harm minimisation, and the industry can expect further action from the VGCCC on this matter.”

New Crown Owners Apologise For Past Misgivings

Blackstone Group spent almost $9 billion acquiring Crown Resorts earlier in 2022. It inherited a plethora of issues, and venues ranked low in various casino reviews. However, the American investment Goliath hired an almost complete new executive teams as it attempts to right the wrongs of the previous regime.

A Blackstone spokesperson apologised for the prior wrongdoing. In addition, Blackstone promised it is working on repairing the company’s reputation.

“We are genuinely remorseful for the failings of the past, and we are committed to becoming a world leader in the delivery of safe and responsible gaming and entertainment. The recently appointed new leadership team at Crown Resorts is driving a whole-of-company transformation program, designed to uplift the culture and build a better Crown Resorts which exceeds the expectations of our stakeholders.”

The VGCCC warned Crown Resorts that it is considering additional fines relating to the royal commission’s findings. These include evidence of high rollers cashing blank cheques for casino chips.

Crown is on a 15-month probation period. Stephen O’Bryan, KC, is in charge of Crown’s affairs during this period. VGCCC appointed O’Bryan as Crown’s special monitor after it was deemed Crown is not a suitable person for a casino licence. O’Bryan has complete control of Crown, apart from the ability to buy or sell assets. He is in charge so that Crown can continue operating in Australia.