ANALYSIS: Another day, another Aussie casino embroiled in criminal activities. This time, it’s Sydney’s Star Casino facing a raft of allegations over widespread, long-term money laundering. Lawyer and novelist, Miles Hunt, with this look at hypocrisy in action.
Another day, another casino in trouble. Crown faced its own issues in the last few years and lost its licence. Now The Star in Sydney is facing similar issues and potential loss of licence – as each day, new evidence comes to light of obscene failures to meet its regulatory requirements.
The regulation – no it’s not just some unnecessary paperwork that forgot to be filed, but a failure to follow protocols set out to prevent money laundering. In fact, the evidence provided in the Royal Commission into their operations suggests they actively encouraged systems to get around any attempts by the State to stop money laundering.
Who would have thought it? A casino being used to launder criminal money into legal tender. Best place to do it really. Take a wad of stolen / trafficked money, turn it into chips, make a few bets, and leave, cashing out that drug / gun / crime money into a ‘fat stack of cash’ – as Jessie Pinkman would say. Then do the same thing, but on a huge scale with international investors transferring 70 odd million dollars to cover the losses of unscrupulous gamblers who shouldn’t even be allowed through the doors.
One allegation, involves The Star, allowing gambled money to be tabled as expenses – simply because they knew the money was dodgy. Easier to accept it as profit through the hotel, than admit they were basically laundering money at the tables. Very clever. Who came up with that one? A roulette croupier? The cleaner?
Maybe no one did. It just happened without a decision ever being made. We all know companies work in their own mysterious ways – so no one is to blame when it all goes to hell. Privatise profit, socialise the shit – debt, blame, loss, even it appears, criminal activity.
The CEO, Matt Bekier, just resigned. Probably got paid out a year for that. In the words of Jim Morrison to Ray Manzarek when they formed The Doors, ‘Let’s start a band and make a million bucks’ – ‘How else can we do it, Jim?’ Run a casino, criminalise it to the point that it faces the loss of its existence, and then get the hell out of there before the walls cave in, taking the last chips out of Saigon on the way out. Seems fair, especially when the rest of us plebs have got to work and save for 20 odd years to come even close to that. Plus, we have to pay tax, while if you are a CEO, you can probably just move that same money back offshore to avoid it. Make that 40 years of work.
On the positive, The Star is getting a public grilling. They are facing a class action from Slater and Gordon lawyers from shareholders for ‘misleading and deceptive representations’ around its compliance with regulatory obligations (at least the owners and lawyers are getting something). They’ll probably get a big whopping fine too and may even lose their licence.
But let’s be frank. No one will go to jail. Weird! If a bikie gang laundered drug money, the police would be smashing it up, arresting people at will. Criminal enterprise it seems is set aside for the already criminal. But if you wear a suit and work in Pyrmont, all good.
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The Star. Our precious casino. Hiding behind a corporate veil, where no one is responsible but the company itself and how can you put a company in jail – it’s like the financial crisis all over again. Bankers destroying the lives of millions, ruining savings accounts, destroying half the financial system and no one goes to prison. Usually, they get a bonus. Worst case, just resign and take a year’s pay.
I bet no one even gets charged. Yet someone made the call, someone accepted those credit cards and chips, someone took the international money from unscrupulous dealers, someone even worked out ways to do it, so they could bypass the anti-laundering measures the state put in place to protect against this very thing.
No doubt though if you commit Centrelink fraud, there would be a police investigation. Especially if you’re poor and can’t pay it back. Or if you’re struggling to meet the cost of daily living and you rob a convenience store – then it’s straight to jail for you – don’t pass go and don’t collect $200.
Money laundering, it’s a crime. Unless you are the casino. Then it’s expected.