28 April 2024

Upping the ante: SA casinos could face $75m maximum fine under new laws

| James Day
Start the conversation
casino and part of nearby train station

During an investigation led by AUSTRAC, the agency alleges SkyCity Adelaide was found to have committed serious and systemic non-compliance with federal anti-money-laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws. Photo: Facebook/SkyCity Adelaide.

The South Australian Government has tabled new laws that could lift the current maximum fine for casino operators’ misconduct from $100,000 to $75 million.

Disciplinary action will cover both past and future conduct, with measures in place to ensure the Liquor and Gambling Commissioner takes into account penalties already imposed by a court when considering adding more.

The proposed laws come after the Commonwealth’s financial intelligence agency – AUSTRAC – took civil action against the operators of SkyCity Adelaide in December last year.

Its findings sparked a State Government review of the penalties applicable to the gambling operations of the Adelaide Casino, during which it was discovered that many of the laws had not been substantially changed since their introduction in 1997.

READ ALSO 25 km/h limit now applies around RAA roadside assistance vehicles in South Australia

In June 2021, AUSTRAC notified SkyCity Adelaide that it would pursue an enforcement investigation, which was the result of an industry-wide compliance campaign that began in September 2019.

AUSTRAC launched civil penalty proceedings against SkyCity Adelaide on 7 December, 2022, alleging it found serious and systemic non-compliance with federal anti-money-laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) laws.

The financial intelligence agency alleges the casino operators also failed to carry out due diligence on 124 customers, which is a breach that could result in fines of more than $2 billion.

AUSTRAC deputy CEO Peter Soros said SkyCity’s ineffective approach to its AML/CTF programs had left it vulnerable to criminal exploitation.

“This is the third civil penalty proceeding AUSTRAC has brought against businesses operating in the casino sector,” Mr Soros said at the time.

“It should serve as a warning to casinos and all other businesses regulated by AUSTRAC to take their AML/CTF obligations seriously and comply with the AML/CTF Act and AML/CTF rules.”

In a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange, SkyCity said it had come to an agreement with AUSTRAC on the matter, which is set to return to the Federal Court in June.

READ ALSO In productivity terms, Australia’s healthcare system is doing OK, says latest research

Minister for Consumer and Business Affairs Andrea Michaels said the SkyCity operators were South Australia’s only casino licence holder, which was a privilege that should not be taken for granted.

“The state’s casino licence comes with a range of significant responsibilities and, given many of the penalties for non-compliance have not been changed in more than 25 years, now is the right time to modernise these laws and ensure our penalties reflect their serious nature,” Ms Michaels said.

“The penalties available to business operators cannot just be a slap on the wrist – or something that a multimillion-dollar business can simply disregard as an acceptable cost of doing business.

“These reforms will deliver what South Australians expect and ensure a greater level of accountability and responsibility in future.”

The maximum penalties for many criminal offences will also increase under the proposed laws, such as offences for failing to keep proper financial accounts, evading the payment of casino duty and failure to take action specified in a compliance notice issued by the Liquor and Gambling Commissioner.

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.