Fri, Jul 5, 11:48am by Kevin Pitstock
AUSTRAC is concerned about the coming wave of high stakes gamblers to Australia. According to the currency monitoring organisation, high volume gambling might cover up money laundering. The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) is a government agency which monitors money laundering, as well as activity involving organised crime, tax evasion, and welfare fraud. The organization has operated since 1989, since the passage of the Financial Transaction Reports Act of 1988.
AUSTRAC’s concerns were voiced in anticipation of the NSW Cabinet’s consideration of rival casino proposals for Sydney. Crown Limited and Echo Entertainment each have submitted plans for major expansions of gambling in Sydney, which is meant to lure high stakes players from Asia, especially China.
High roller gaming requires close monitoring healthy anti-laundering policies, and more regulatory assets. Often, VIP casinos offer high priced junkets to high rollers. A common arrangement is to offer special odds gaming to players from China who are willing to put up $75,000 minimum stakes. These players are given extra comps and a better house edge, in hopes of luring them to a particular city or casino.
With a possible vast expansion of gambling in New South Wales in the coming years, it’s expected these high dollar junkets might become more frequent. Crown Limited wants to build a modern casino named Crown Sydney in the Barangaroo development area of Sydney Harbour. James Packer has stated he wants to lure wealthy Asian gamblers with this new gambling venue.
Echo Entertainment has a rival proposal to expand Star Sydney Casino, including $1.1 billion in renovations, expansions, and infrastructure. Once again, the idea behind the proposal is to lure wealthy players from China. In a sub-proposal, Echo would go ahead with its expansion, while Crown would build a casino specifically for high stakes players.
Whichever selection is made, it appears high dollar gamblers are going to come to New South Wales in greater numbers than ever, starting in 2019. If so, AUSTRAC warns these would be perfect opportunities to launder money, due to the high volume spending which occurs in such gaming. Because the source of this money is often hard for auditors to determine, it can provide a prime chance for money launderers to get involved. AUSTRAC’s warning is meant to raise awareness of the dangers of high dollar casinos.
Of course, AUSTRAC also notes that it has a high degree of engagement with Australia’s casinos. A spokesman for Echo was quick to note their company’s anti-money laundering policies and strong record of compliance with auditing and other precautionary measures.
This isn’t a case of government regulators wanting to limit gambling. In truth, it’s quite the opposite. In the end, the government industry is only noting that it will have to step up its operations, and thus will need the commensurate funding to assure that happens.
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