This Week in Gambling
The world of gambling keeps turning, and each rotation brings another batch of news. From the predictable to the bizarre, here are the items making headlines this week.
Another Black Eye for Crown Resorts
Crown Resorts is dealing with another public relations headache thanks to an article in The Sydney Morning Herald and eight other newspapers. The report claims that Veng Anh, the VP of International Operations for Crown, ordered an employee to send AU$500,000 to Nan Hu. So why is this a problem?
- In 2015, Hu earned a conviction for selling and distributing cocaine, as well as money laundering.
- Hu was not a Crown agent or high roller when the transaction took place (almost three years ago).
- The money has been linked to Tom Zhou, a Crown VIP on Interpol’s list of wanted criminals.
- Hu passed the money along to Timothy Ma, a convicted heroin trafficker with reported ties to organized crime.
- Any transaction of more than AU$10,000 must be reported within three days. Crown didn’t report the AU$500,000 for over a year.
Todd Harland, former director of intelligence for AUSTRAC, called the behaviour “money laundering 101.” This is the kind of publicity that Crown doesn’t need, especially considering that they’re facing intense government scrutiny.
Even More Bad News for Crown
The public inquiry into Crown’s reported ties to organized crime and money laundering have resumed. Thanks to the press surround this event, shares in the company have dropped to a two-year low. Even worse, Crown could very well wind up losing their gaming license in New South Wales.
On top of everything else, the pending $1.76 billion deal that would’ve seen Melco Resorts buy 20% of Crown has now evaporated. Melco used the coronavirus as an excuse. However, it likely has something to do with the fact that CEO Lawrence Ho’s father has long been suspected of belonging to a Chinese crime family.
The Failure of Victoria’s YouPlay Program
In 2015, Victoria introduced the YouPlay program at the cost of $197 million (mostly paid by the gaming industry). The object of the program was to fight problem gambling by encouraging players to set loss limits.
However, the program has now been deemed a failure following research by the University of Adelaide. Victorians lost $2.7 billion on pokies last year, and only 0.01% of wagers came while using voluntary pre-commitment cards.
Furthermore, many casinos were less than receptive to the idea. Staff members often discouraged customers from signing up for YouPlay. In other cases, casinos pressured players to join their loyalty program at the same time.
Following the report, the state vowed to strengthen their gambling code of conduct. Expected changes include fines for venues that do not comply with the program. Also, venues must now interact with patrons who’ve gambled uninterrupted for a certain length of time.
South Korea Casino Shutdown Continues
South Korea has experienced the largest coronavirus infection outside of China, with a reported 1,300 exposed and 11 dead. In order to combat the spread, last week the nation’s largest casino, Kangwon Land, announced a voluntary shutdown from February 23rd to the 26th.
However, due to “growing concern about community infections” the casino has extended their deadline to 6am on Saturday, February 29th. The shutdown will cost the company an estimated US$18.1 million, which is twice the amount originally expected.
Despite precautions, the number of reported coronavirus cases continues to climb in South Korea. Due to this fact, there’s a good chance that the Kangwon Land shutdown will extend past Saturday.
Macau Casinos Back in Business
While South Korean casinos are closing down, the Macau gambling industry is slowly coming back to life. Following a 15-day government-ordered shutdown, 33 of Macau’s 39 casinos had resumed business as of Monday. However, there are a few restrictions in place:
- No standing bets
- The number of players at a table is limited.
- All guests and staff must wear face masks.
The city’s gross gaming revenue dropped 90% compared to last February. Assuming the government errs on the side of caution regarding travel restrictions, March could fall up to 80%.
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