Union Pay scheme could see Crown facing regulatory repercussions

The Victorian gambling regulator has begun with its disciplinary proceedings following Crown Resorts’ Melbourne facility over allegations of illegal funds being transferred from China.

In what is described as the ‘China Union Pay process,’ the claims come in relation to the findings of the state’s royal commission into the casino and entertainment operator, which found that the group had devised the ploy in a bid to evade Chinese currency restrictions.

The royal commission report revealed the process involved “the use of the Chinese-based bank card, China Union Pay, to allow international patrons to access funds in order to gamble at Crown Melbourne”, which occurred between 2012 and 2016.

This, it is added, was devised due to restrictions imposed on Chinese nationals transferring money out of the country, with the process initially seeing the issuance of a room charge bill to patrons that falsely asserted that the hotel had provided services.

“The patron would pay the bill [using their China Union Pay card] and be given a voucher acknowledging receipt of funds,” the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission confirmed.

“Then the patron, accompanied by a Crown VIP host, took the voucher to the cage and exchanged it for cash or chips.”

Actions available to the VGCC, which adds that it will make a further announcement once it has considered Crown’s response, include imposing a fine of up to A$100m, varying its casino licence, and/or censuring the company and directing it to take rectification steps.

Fran Thorn, VGCCC Chair, explained: “I welcome the legislative amendments which impose stronger regulatory obligations on Crown and provide the VGCCC with greater enforcement powers. These powers are needed to deter Crown from engaging in the conduct that was revealed during the royal commission.

“As a first step, we are acting on the royal commission’s findings that Crown’s China Union Pay process breached important Victorian regulatory obligations, was illegal and constituted serious misconduct.”

In a statement, Crown says that it will “fully cooperate” with the VGCC “on this and any other matters arising from the Victorian royal commission report”.