Thursday, September 09, 2004

Casino liability for receiving stolen money and being an accessory in money-laundering

Melbourne’s Crown Casino is the largest single high-roller site in the world, turning over between $18 billion and $20 billion annually.

In March 2003, Crown Casino spokesman Gary O’Neil made this admission, regarding an about-to-be-jailed former high roller client: there were no obvious signs that Frank De Stefano was gambling beyond his means during the time he spent at the casino*.

As I wrote then, such an admission seems to imply that casinos should keep some kind of lookout over its customers for signs of gambling beyond their means.

More recently though, O’Neil has been peddling a more truculent line:

"We have never, ever denied and nor could we - it would be ludicrous for us to do it - that people come here who have criminal backgrounds and who spend money that has been illegally obtained," says Crown spokesman Gary O'Neil. Nor does Crown believe it is the casino's role to identify criminals who might be gambling with stolen money.

Casino spokesman Gary O'Neill last night revealed Crown's customers were not required to submit background records before joining membership programs. "We have always said that Crown is not an investigating agency and we don't have the resources to make background checks".

If the role of identifying criminals who might be gambling with stolen money or laundering black money is not Crown’s – even partly – that leaves two other contenders: the police and AUSTRAC. Both are currently constrained by not having automatic, real-time access to the detailed spending data kept by Crown. Is Gary O'Neil suggesting that they should? More likely, of course, he simply wants the status quo kept, into which casino responsibility for receiving stolen money is negated because of a jurisdictional/data-access black hole.

To appreciate the richness of Crown's position here – that it is not itself an investigating agency, and otherwise operates with limited resources – the outsourced cost of a routine (Australian) background check, sufficient to near-conclusively show whether a person has the legitimate financial resources to be spending the sums they are, is between $100 and $200, in my estimation. Is Crown saying it simply can’t afford to spend such a sum on verifying the bona fides of its high-rollers? Of course not – Crown is really saying that it doesn’t want to know. And until it is hit with a knockout civil lawsuit, or criminal charges against it (and not merely one of its minions), Crown Casino appears certain to get away with this shameful ruse.

* Gosia Kaszubska “10 years for gambling away clients’ $8m” The Australian 14 March 2003

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