Crown Resorts suffered through a miserable 2020, and 2021 isn’t looking much better. Amidst various investigations and loads of bad publicity, the company has now been hit with an AUD$1 million fine by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR).

The Nature of the Fine

The fine targets Crown Melbourne in Victoria, mainly because of their less-than-ideal relationship with foreign high rollers. According to the VCGLR, Crown Resorts failed to do their due diligence when dealing with various junket operators. In other words, they weren’t especially concerned about rubbing elbows with shady individuals, especially if it could bring in foreign whales.

According to VCGLR Chairman Ross Kennedy, “We concluded that in respect of the analyzed individuals, the processes implemented by Crown Resorts Limited were not robust. This failure meant it was unclear how certain decisions were reached by Crown Resorts Limited and whether such decisions were made with due regard to Crown Resorts Limited’s regulatory obligations.”

He then added, “It is the first time that Crown has been fined the maximum fine available to the Commission under the Casino Control Act 1991.”

Additional Penalty

The VCGLR also issued a letter of censure to Crown Melbourne, effectively banning them from any junket operations at the 1,600-room location. This will stay in place until the company can ensure that their Melbourne casino “remains free from criminal influence and exploitation.”

However, this penalty is something of a moot point. Crown Resorts has already distanced itself from junket operators following the scandal in Sydney. Still, it serves as more bad press for a company that’s increasingly under fire from both politicians and the media.

Critics of the Fine

While some have applauded the VCGLR , others are less than impressed. Samantha Ratnam, local leader of the Australian Greens, referred to the fine as “too little, too late.” She added that it shouldn’t have required “years of damning allegations and the announcement of a royal commission” before action was taken.

“While the fine itself will likely be nothing more than loose change to Crown Resorts Limited, we hope this provides the government with yet another sign that it’s time to break up the gambling giant for good.”

Anti-pokie crusader and independent parliamentarian Andrew Wilkie has also been critical of the penalty. He called it “laughable,” adding that the VCGLR “should be handing out fines in the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Continuing Investigations

Some have even went so far as to call the fine a calculated public relations move on behalf of the VCGLR. The Commission has endured months of criticism over perceived inaction, preferring to hold off on any enforcement actions until the conclusion of an investigation by New South Wales regulators. Of course, NSW eventually determined that Crown Resorts was unsuitable to run a casino.

Back in November, Victorian Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien wondered aloud why the VCGLR were dragging their feet.

“We have not seen Victoria’s regulator lift a finger to test those claims the same way the NSW regulator has done. It’s time for Victoria’s regulator to get out of the kennel and start being a watchdog, not a lap dog.”

The VCGLR is continuing their investigation, as is the government of Victoria. The latter announced a Royal Commission on the heels of the Bergin Report from NSW. AUSTRAC is also conducting their own investigation, focusing on how the casino giant handled politically exposed persons and high net worth individuals.

For the moment, Crown Melbourne is still open for business. However, the findings of the Royal Commission, which are due by the end of the year, could change all that.

Additional Reading

To read more about the further misadventures of Crown Resorts, please see the following: