Australian casino operator Crown Resorts Limited is reportedly facing the real prospect of being ordered to pay fines totalling almost $68 million for responsible gambling shortcomings at its flagship Crown Melbourne property.

According to a report from the Australian Financial Review newspaper, the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission yesterday revealed that it had begun disciplinary proceedings connected with the Melbourne venue’s failure to adhere to a range of responsible gambling obligations. These infractions purportedly carry a maximum aggregated penalty of approximately $67.73 million although this amount may rise as the regulator is said to be considering ‘further potential disciplinary proceedings’ tied to last year’s royal commission probe into the past practices of the casino operator.

Crucial commitment:

Fran Thorn serves as the inaugural Chair for the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission and she reportedly stated that there ‘was no more important’ duty for Crown Resorts Limited than abiding by its responsible gambling obligations. The experienced watchdog moreover pronounced that the latest breaches had encompassed ‘not adequately supervising or interacting with hundreds or possibly thousands of customers who exhibited signs of problem or risky gambling.

Reportedly read a statement from Thorn…

We heard many distressing stories at the royal commission of vulnerable patrons being encouraged to gamble beyond their means. The Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission will therefore be unflinching in its resolve to deal with the issues uncovered at the royal commission regarding Crown Resorts Limited’s approach to responsible gambling and to ensure the casino operator acts in line with its legal obligations and the community’s expectations.”

Subsequent steps:

For its part and Crown Resorts Limited, which is also responsible for the Crown Perth and Crown Sydney facilities in Australia, reportedly asserted that it was first notified of these issues in 2019 and now intends to work with the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission to ‘close out this and all other outstanding matters’ raised by the royal commission investigation. The operator purportedly furthermore noted that responsible gambling remains a key plank in its reform and remediation program and that associated staffing levels had been increased by 60% over the course of the past year.

Previous penalty:

The Australian Financial Review reported that any incoming fines would add to the around $54.13 million Crown Resorts Limited recently handed over to the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission for a raft of breaches uncovered by the royal commission probe. These purportedly included the firm’s past exploitation of the UnionPay debit card enterprise to help Chinese patrons illicitly receive cash as well as its alleged evasion of local anti-money laundering laws.

Tax troubles:

The newspaper went on to detail that Crown Resorts Limited may additionally be fined for its historical underpayment of Victoria gambling taxes. The casino operator handed over some $41.25 million in unpaid taxes a year ago before telling investors that the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, which was the forerunner of the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission, was still investigating the matter to determine the final due amount.

Prominent parent:

Crown Resorts Limited was recently taken over by American private equity management firm The Blackstone Group Incorporated as part of an understanding worth roughly $6.35 billion following the buyer’s approval by casino regulators for the states of Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. This move took the operator private and reportedly prompted financial services behemoth S&P Global Incorporated to downgrade its credit rating to ‘BB-/B’ due to a belief that ‘the aggressive funding mix’ of this arrangement had ‘materially weakened’ the firm’s credit rating.

A statement from S&P Global Incorporated reportedly read…

“We will no longer have access to information on Crown Resorts Limited because it will become a private company. Considerable uncertainty remains on The Blackstone Group Incorporated’s operating strategy and the final capital structure.”