A series of reforms assessed against Australia’s Crown Melbourne Casino are likely to keep what was once the Southern Hemisphere’s largest poker series, the Aussie Millions, on hiatus until at least 2025. Anti-money-laundering mandates that will cap all gamblers’ cash transactions at AU $1,000 per day are one of a dozen new rules that the casino must adhere to in order to continue in operation.
As many as 33 new reforms could be ordered implemented by Victoria state regulators, and they are intended to target massive abuses uncovered at the casino during a multi-year investigation. From casino practices designed to keep players plugging the “pokies” (slot machines) to extensive money-laundering schemes to defrauding Victoria of $200 million in owed tax revenue, Crown Melbourne was riddled with abusive and fraudulent practices.
Crown Melbourne was fortunate to remain in operation, and it and the other Australian Crown Resorts properties were acquired by U.S.-based Blackstone in a deal that was finalized just last month. However, the new reforms will take some time to be implemented, such as mandatory, loyalty-card-based tracking of all gambling transactions and wagers. The casino will have until the end of 2023 to implement all the ordered reforms, and it will remain in a “grace period” to assure operational compliance for an additional two years.
Anti-money-laundering measures make poker an unintended victim
Except for possible violations regarding the length of time poker players were allowed to remain in action, the Aussie Millions’ ongoing shelving is more a victim of unintended consequences than anything. Many of the government-ordered reforms target various slots-related abuses, but the anti-money-laundering measures would likely hinder poker players’ ability to freely enter and re-enter the major events that dotted earlier Aussie Millions schedules.
Crown Melbourne was found to have conducted a huge, underground marketing scheme that for years recruited wealthy Chinese gamblers using the junket system that China’s regulators have also cracked down on in recent years. While a few of those junket-participating gamblers — not to mention a couple of the junketeers themselves — were occasional high-rolling poker players, the casino’s interest was wholly in recruiting the whales to gamble in Melbourne.
Poker events at Crown were on hiatus regardless, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The last Aussie Millions series was held in January of 2020, and the series was never scheduled for 2021 or 2022.
Featured image source: Aussie Millions