Double Trouble at Melbourne’s Crown Casino

The Crown Melbourne has come under fire again after a video surfaced showing hundreds of thousands of dollars being casually unloaded from a shopping bag. The whistleblowers allege this to be an example of the casino servicing organized crime. At the same time, the beleaguered resort is facing a strike proposal from within.

A man approaches the exchange table in an exclusive room at the Crown Casino. He places an unremarkable Aldi bag on the table. He then unzips it to reveal a treasure trove of “bricks” of $50- and $100-dollar notes. In total it amounts to more than AU$100,000 (US$67,665). He casually places these stacks on the table. The staff on the other side place chips on the table. Nothing about this interaction appears surprising to those involved.

Leaked by three Victorian state gambling inspectors, this footage is the latest to come out in a string of scandals for the colossal resort. The whistleblowers, who choose to remain anonymous, alleged that this kind of transaction is a very common occurrence. This is supposedly just one example of how the casino supports organized crime: helping them to unload dirty money in exchange for chips. They said:

“Anyone can walk in with any amount of money and launder it. Nobody really cares,”

This wasn’t an ordinary floor at the Crown Casino either. This room is specifically reserved for clients of Suncity, a Macau-based gambling tour operator that flies in wealthy gamblers from China. This room was nearly closed in the past, because of previous, alleged ties to organized crime. It continues to operate despite the trouble.

A Politician with a Mission

As a former member of the Australian Army, Andrew Wilkie is not a stranger to conflict. In his current work as an Independent MP for Clark on the island state of Tasmania, he finds himself again at the firing range.

The head of Australian MP Andrew Wilkie.

The Independent MP against the Crown. ©theaustralian.com

Wilkie was quick to link this latest video leak to an increasingly common string of scandals linked to the casino. In his words, “For many years we’ve been told of shocking crimes occurring at Crown and now we have new footage that supports these claims.”

The Clark MP has confronted the resort before. In 2017, he unsuccessfully proposed a motion for a joint parliamentary committee to examine the casino. At the time there were many reports of pokie tampering, in which clients at the casino were only given the option to bet a minimum or a maximum bet on the machines. This incident resulted in a $300,000 fine from the state, which Wilkie called “laughably tiny” given the annual revenue of the establishment.

“This crisis at Crown is multinational, multi-jurisdictional, and multi-agency. This is a demonstration of catastrophic failure on the part of the major parties, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, Victoria Police, the Australian federal police, Border Force and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre,” Wilkie said.

The Attorney-General Christian Porter has come out against the MP, saying that his calls for a royal commission are “completely immature”. The national representative lists the sheer number of investigations currently underway.

Workers on the Brink

Frustration at the resort is currently coming from both outside and inside. Just as these allegations of money laundering are resurfacing, employees are planning a strike. This Tuesday, about 1,000 Crown employees and supporters marched on the resort according to the United Workers Union. The workers are fighting for more job security and better pay. They are now concluding a ballot that might see them strike for the first time in 16 years. This time against the upcoming Spring Racing Festival.

Union National Secretary Time Kennedy said, “Staff believes as one of the largest and most profitable employers in Australia, Crown should be able to offer a full-time job to anyone who wants one.” The crown no doubt has its hands full. It must contend that it does not have the resources to improve worker conditions, while simultaneously denying money laundering charges.

The resort is standing firm, however, and denies any accusations of illegal activity. Concerning the strike, a Crown spokesman said an agreement was expected to be finalized soon. The resort prides itself on the way it treats its staff. He said: “Like many other employers in the hospitality industry, we provide a flexible workplace which caters to thousands of staff who prefer to work on a part-time or casual basis as it gives them the flexibility to pursue other work, study or family opportunities.”

The Crown spokesman also commented that “where staff would like to work additional hours, depending on their availability and trading conditions, we strive to provide them with the opportunity to increase their hours worked.”

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