VGCCC issues Crown Melbourne with AU$80m fine for China Union Pay scandal

The Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) has imposed an AU$80m (US$57.4m) fine on Crown Melbourne. 

CrownResorts Melbourne
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The casino has been intensely scrutinised in recent months, over a protracted scandal involving the embezzlement of funds from China Union Pay bank cards. 

Crown Melbourne allowed its patrons to use China Union Pay cards to access funds for gambling, facilitating access to nearly AU$164m. 

Using a China Union Pay debit or credit card for gambling purposes is illegal (given China’s ban on gambling), and Crown Melbourne was in breach of Australia's Casino Control Act 1991. 

Illegal bank transactions at the casino, which occurred between 2012 and 2016, are said to have generated an estimated revenue of more than AU$32m for Crown Resorts. 

The casino operator has been embroiled in legal action since this case came to light and, more recently, Crown received new restrictions from the VGCCC. 

This hefty fine is the latest of the VGCCC’s enforcement measures against Crown, the highest fine issued by Australia’s Gambling Commission since amendments were made to the Casino Control Act, raising the maximum penalty from AU$1m to AU$100m.  

After a string of high-profile departures and resignations at Crown, the organisation's new senior management team has admitted the embezzlement case was illegal and “completely unacceptable.”  

VGCCC Chairperson Fran Thorn noted that despite appreciation for Crown’s cooperation and acceptance of the fine, the record AU$80m punishment handed down to Crown was appropriate. 

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.

“Crown benefited handsomely from its illegal conduct. The fine will ensure Crown is stripped of the revenue derived from the CUP process and will send a clear message that it must comply with its regulatory obligations.” 

This may not be the end of disciplinary proceedings for Crown Melbourne either. The VGCCC is considering further action against the operator related to other findings made by the Royal Commission, which may attract an additional fine of up to AU$100m for Crown Melbourne. 

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