Crown Resorts to Pay $80M Fine Over Illegal China UnionPay Card Use

Posted on: May 30, 2022, 06:09h. 

Last updated on: May 30, 2022, 02:01h.

Crown Resorts is still paying the price for its transgressions in Australia, and will for some time. ABC News reports the latest is a fine of AU$80 million (US$57.5 million) over the casino operator’s deliberate misuse of the China UnionPay (CUP) card.

Crown Melbourne
Crown Resorts’ Crown Melbourne casino in Victoria. It faces a new fine for illegal use of the China UnionPay card by gamblers. (Image: Associated Press)

The Crown Melbourne in Victoria, Australia, repeatedly allowed Chinese gamblers to use a CUP bank card to access funds to gamble at the casino between 2012-2016. During that time, the casino earned millions in revenue by violating Chinese laws and Victoria’s Casino Control Act (CCA), according to the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC).

Fran Thorn, the chairperson of the VGCCC, stated that although Crown had cooperated in the disciplinary process. the casino will have to repay any revenue it generated by the illegal conduct. She stated that Crown’s CUP activity was a clandestine and deliberate process that violated the CCA. It also helped patrons breach China’s foreign exchange restrictions.

Crown Knew It Was Breaking the Rules

Crown was well aware that the CUP process was illegal, but didn’t let that stand in the way. Thorn accuses the casino of not respecting its regulatory obligations. This was evidenced by the fact that it went to great lengths to conceal what it was doing.

Between 2012 and 2016, Chinese nationals could not transfer more than $50,000 from China each year. However, a royal commission discovered that Crown had concocted a devious plan.

It issued fraudulent receipts for activity described as “hotel services.” The guest would pay the bill with a CUP card and receive a voucher. They could then use these vouchers in exchange for gambling chips.

Crown’s board allegedly didn’t know about the activity. The board told the Victoria commission investigating Crown’s license that as soon as it found out it informed the state’s gaming regulator.

Crown’s board and senior management are committed to the delivery of a comprehensive reform and remediation program to ensure Crown delivers a safe and responsible gaming environment and continues to cooperate with the VGCCC on all matters arising from the Victorian Royal Commission Report,” said Crown Resorts’ Board of Directors.

The VGCCC is taking over for the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation as Victoria’s new gaming regulator. It will have substantially more authority than its predecessor. The maximum fine a regulator can now impose on a person is $100 million (US$71.76 million). Until the end of last year, it was only AU$1 million (US$717,500).

Crown is still under investigation in Victoria, as well as on a national level through the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC). There could be further disciplinary actions in relation to other findings from the royal commission.

Crown Closer To Completing Blackstone Deal

The Blackstone Group is closer than ever to owning Crown Resorts, but there are still unanswered questions. Crown filed the relevant documents with the Federal Court of Australia after shareholders approved the arrangement. Previously, it expected the final hearing date to be in the week of June 6.

However, last week, the Court issued orders to postpone the Court’s final hearing to approve the plan. The date of the final hearing depends on when Blackstone meets the suspensive condition regarding regulatory authorizations for gambling. There is no established time line for this to occur.