A world-famous Adelaide casino finds itself in a precarious position as it faces down an investigation into allegations of money laundering and other illicit activity. Skycity Entertainment Ltd. has been under scrutiny since September 2019 following the start of a review by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC).
Reports of money laundering and links to the criminal underworld have marred the casino’s once-pristine reputation, however, the initiation of measures to address these issues have sparked hope among stakeholders that Skycity’s redemption is possible. AUSTRAC has also been investigating alleged irregularities around customer due diligence.
Cleaning the slate
Earlier in the year, Skycity announced that it had severed ties with junket operators. This move appeared to be prompted by the exposure of its rival Crown Resorts Ltd.’s links to organized crime operations. The relationships between casinos and junkets have historically drawn criticism because they often come dangerously close to skirting regulations. Their efforts to woo potential wealthy Chinese gambling connoisseurs pay handsomely, but may often involve shady business.
Skycity’s response to AUSTRAC’s inquiry has been appropriately unambiguous. The company has announced that it is cooperating fully with the investigation but has revealed little else in the way of fine details.
What the operator has said is that the attention of the inquest concerns the casino’s management of specific customers identified as “high risk” or “politically exposed”. The investigation is focused on the months from July 2015 to June 2016, and those between July 2018 and June 2019.
Ramping up regulation
The unprecedented growth of the international gambling industry has brought about the urgent need for intensified regulation and enforcement of said regulations, if illegal activities are to be curbed.
The damaging allegations against Skycity’s Adelaide casino have shed even more light on the fact that any industry can easily find itself adjacent to or engaged in unlawful practices. The company is undoubtedly hopeful that it can weather the process and outcome of the investigation relatively intact. Its trio of New Zealand casinos has not drawn the public attention of AUSTRAC, but there is no telling what the final findings of the probe will reveal.
The casino industry and gambling industry as a whole have suffered due to the global health crisis. Government-mandated closures of indoor entertainment venues and stay at home orders cut off the stream of customers that would regularly head out to play pokies and other games of chance.
In this volatile economic environment, casino companies that find themselves embroiled in criminal allegations may find their fortunes in even more jeopardy than the industry at large.