New legislation will be enacted by the Queensland government to crack down on casinos, according to Business News Australia. Penalties could reach up to AU$50 million (US$35.46 million) for certain violations, substantially more than today’s penalties.
The changes are part of a Casino Control Amendment Bill announced today (CCAB). The legislation seeks to prevent criminal activity, such as money laundering and false reporting, at Queensland casinos.
Scandals Bring About Changes
The reforms follow allegations that Star Entertainment willfully supported money laundering in at least one of its casinos. The same allegations were the cause of Crown Resorts’ downfall in the country.
Both have been the subject of inquiries in various states in Australia. But the Queensland Government has declined to hold its own public inquiry. However, it has been closely monitoring the ongoing Star inquiry in New South Wales (NSW).
Attorney General Shannon Fentiman stated that reforms in the CCAB will reduce the risk of criminal activity by casinos. It will also help prevent the influence of gaming operations by criminal organizations.
The reforms include a transition to cashless gambling and specific reforms to casino integrity. The government, through its gaming regulator or a ministerial body, could issue fines of as much as AU$5 million (US$3.54 million) to any licensee, lessee or operator of a casino. The Governor in Council, however, would be able to issue fines up to $50 million.
No More Mr. Nice Guy
The CCAB also introduces other penalties, including those for illegally manipulating an approved control system. The fine would double from its current 200 penalty units. The penalty for interfering with an inspector is increased from 40 to 160 units.
A penalty unit is AU$137 (US$97.19). In other words, altering a control system, such as manipulating financial records, could carry a fine of up to AU$54,800 (US$38,853).
The government would also have the authority to force casinos to hand over information, even if the operator considers it “privileged information.” It would also have greater flexibility to launch investigations, with the implementation of a lower threshold before authorities can take disciplinary action against an operator.
Fentiman indicated that further amendments to the legislation are possible. However, much depends on the direction NSW’s inquiry into Star’s activities takes.
The NSW inquiry received evidence that Simon Kim, Star’s former senior VP of international marketing, had stolen AU$13 million (US$9.2 million) before disappearing two years ago. The money allegedly belonged to a junket operator out of China. There have been other claims about alleged kickbacks and the illegal use of the China UnionPay card for gambling.
Star is the owner of the Gold Coast and Brisbane casinos. It is also behind a new Queen’s Wharf project that will include a $3-billion (US$2.12 billion) casino and resort development.
Fentiman stated that the reforms would be in effect before Queen’s Wharf opens.