The operator of one of Australia’s biggest casinos was fined A$80 million ($57.4 million) on Monday by the Victoria state gambling regulator for allowing an illegal transfer of funds from China.
The decision came as no surprise as regulators in three states have all found Crown Resorts unfit to hold gaming licences at various times, but analysts are still awaiting a decision by the watchdog on the $6.3 billion buyout of the casino group by Blackstone.
The Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC), in its decision on Friday, said the issue dubbed as the “China UnionPay process” related to illegal conduct between 2012 and 2016, whereby patrons were allowed to use credit or debit cards to access funds to gamble at Crown’s casino in Melbourne.
This facilitated access to nearly A$164 million to patrons, from which Crown derived an estimated revenue of more than A$32 million, the regulator said.
The decision came just before regulators in Victoria, New South Wales, and Western Australia decide on whether to approve the Blackstone takeover.
Crown’s shareholders overwhelmingly approved the deal earlier this month. The company expects a conclusive Federal Court hearing to approve the buyout next week, provided the various gaming regulators give it the green light.
“Crown acknowledges its historic failings,” the company said on Monday, adding that the China UnionPay process had ceased in 2016 and that an independent investigation was conducted and its findings were shared with the Victorian Royal Commission when the issue had come to light.
Crown added that the VGCCC had indicated it would continue to consider further disciplinary proceedings against the company related to other findings of the Royal Commission, which may each result in a fine of up to A$100 million.
• Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard