Anti-Money Laundering Casino Probe Widens in Australia
Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) has decided to look into two more major gambling companies involving background check rules.
Casinos operating around the world must do their due diligence in order to remain licensed and in operation. Providers of casino gaming are required to meet certain standards and regulations, ensuring that players are enjoying gaming entertainment in a safe manner. In Australia, the anti-money laundering agency of the country had decided to widen its probe into casino activity, looking at not only Crown Resorts, but also Star Entertainment Group and SkyCity Entertainment Group.
Crown Resorts have been under investigation for months, but the other two companies are new to the probe. Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) has decided to formally look into both companies regarding any breaches of background check regulations. Enforcement investigations are pending and if any breaches are found, the companies could be subject to fines or license restrictions.
The pressure surrounding Crown Resorts has been building over the last few months as regulators have found the operator to be in violation of regulations. The company was found to be unfit for its license in Sydney, unable to open the casino for gaming late last year once construction as completed.
Royal commissions in two other states started an investigation into the company and class-action lawsuits were filed as well. AUSTRAC has now expanded its review of the company into Perth, with an announcement made this week on the matter.
The Star’s Sydney casino has been subject to potential compliance breaches, according to AUSTRAC. Customers from 2015 to 2019 are listed in the assessment and triggered the enforcement investigation of the company. The Star will need to provide information and documents as requested by officials as the investigation continues.
Nicole Rose, the CEO of AUSTRAC, said that the casino sector in Australia is at risk of criminal misuse due to the services and products offered. An enforcement investigation is now taking place at the Perth Crown casino and it shows the seriousness of which the group is concerned regarding compliance within the casino sector.
All three companies are to be investigated by AUSTRAC along with the National Australia Bank Ltd. Reportedly, AUSTRAC is concerned that the casino companies are not managing customers who are identified as high risk and politically exposed. The companies have said they plan to cooperate fully during the investigations by AUSTRAC into operations.
Star and Crown Deal May Be Affected
The investigations will involve a deep dive into each company’s operations, and it could hinder a buyout deal involving Star and Crown Resorts. Star plans on buying out the company for A$9 million. It is believed that an objection of the takeover may be raised as the investigation is ongoing.
According to Nathan Bell, a portfolio manager of Intelligent Investor, if the Star investigation reveals the company has good standards, then the takeover proposal should be approved. The manager feels that regulators would rather keep the Crown with a company based in Australia.
Other analysts feel that the investigations are not good news for the casino operators and that fines will most likely be issued once the probe is completed. It is unclear as to what the probe will find and how each company will be affected.
With the announcement, the trading of the Crown and Star are down. Crown Resorts shares dropped 1% during morning trading while Star shares were down 2%. The SkyCity shares did not trade due to a public holiday.
We will continue to monitor the investigations into these Australian companies and report on any changes or rulings by AUSTRAC as updates are provided to the public.