VGCC starts third disciplinary process against Crown Melbourne

Crown Melbourne could face a fine of up to AU$100m.
Crown Melbourne could face a fine of up to AU$100m.

Crown Melbourne has been sanctioned by the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) for its bank and blank cheques practices.

Australia.- Victoria’s casino regulator has taken action against Crown Resorts for the third time this year. It’s launched an investigation into the use of bank and blank cheques by gamblers. The probe could result in a fine of up to AU$100m.

According to the 2021 Royal Commission in Crown, the practices under investigation violated section 68 of the Casino Control Act, which prohibits extending credit to patrons engaged in gaming or betting. These practices included:

  • exchanging a bank cheque (to which the patron was the payee) for gambling chips valued at the face value of the cheque
  • permitting patrons to exchange blank cheques made payable to Crown in exchange for chips used to gamble at the Melbourne casino. 

The actions available to the VGCCC include:

  • imposing a fine of up to AU$100m
  • varying the casino licence
  • issuing a letter of censure to Crown and directing it to take certain steps.

VGCCC chair Fran Thorn said: “The Casino Control Act establishes restrictions on Crown’s financial interactions with its patrons. These restrictions are vital because they protect patrons from gambling beyond their means and guard the Melbourne Casino against criminal influence and exploitation.

“The Royal Commission found that Crown adopted practices involving the use of blank cheques and bank cheques that breached these important restrictions.”

In July, the VGCCC initiated disciplinary proceedings against Crown Melbourne for breaches of its responsible gambling obligations. The VGCCC is currently considering Crown’s response to these disciplinary proceedings and will make a further announcement once it has completed those considerations.  

Two months earlier, the regulator fined Crown Resorts AU$80m (US$57.4m) over using a China Union Pay process to avoid Chinese currency restrictions. 

Between 2012 and 2016, Crown Melbourne allowed its customers to use a credit or debit card to access funds to play games at Melbourne casinos. It earned an estimated AU$32m in revenue from AU$164m in transactions.

Last October, Victoria’s Royal Commission officially declared Crown Resorts unsuitable to hold a licence for its Crown Melbourne casino. However, the casino operator kept its licence through the appointment of a Special Manager to oversee the casino for the next two years.

Following that two-year period, the VGCCC will decide whether Crown is suitable to regain the privilege of holding the Melbourne Casino licence unsupervised.

Victoria introduces new laws to restrict gambling

The Victorian Government has introduced 12 more measures from the 33 recommendations made by Judge Raymond Finkelstein, who led the state of Victoria’s inquiry into Crown Resorts.

As a result of new legislation, every Australian resident who uses the pokies must set a maximum loss limit before playing. Crown will be given until the end of 2023 to implement the mandatory pre-commitments, with full implementation needed no later than 2025. Customers will be able to see any loss limit they choose.

Other new measures include limiting cash transactions to $1,000 per 24 hours in a bid to crack down on money laundering. Meanwhile, Crown will be made to pay for the cost of regulating the casino and the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission will have to approve any ownership of more than 5 per cent of the casino operator.

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Crown Resorts GAMBLING REGULATION Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission