Casino fined $67m for lack of AML vigilance

An Adelaide casino has been fined $67 million for failing to have adequate safeguards against money laundering for six years.

SkyCity Adelaide (SCA) was penalised the Federal Court in Sydney earlier this month for contravening ss 36(1) and 81(1) of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (Cth) between December 2016 and December 2022.

Justice Lee, in his decision published on Thursday, also ordered SCA to pay $3 million in court costs.

The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) had sought declarations and a pecuniary penalty against the casino for contraventions it said were systemic.

In a joint submission, AUSTRAC pointed to aspects of the nature and seriousness of the contraventions, including the high money-laundering or terrorism financing (ML/TF) risks associated with casinos.

“SCA operates in an industry known, internationally and within Australia, to pose high ML/TF risks and, in particular, to attract money laundering from organised crime,” it said.


“During the Relevant Period, SCA operated in a higher risk environment, by reason of its decision to provide services to international patrons and to offer gambling activities that involve high value transactions.

“Transactions are often conducted in cash. As a result of the contraventions admitted above, SCA facilitated the provision of designated services in the billions of dollars in the absence of appropriate AML/CTF (Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing) controls.”

The submission stated the key harm arising from the failure to manage the risk was the creation of the opportunity for ML/TF risks to be realised and go undetected.

“The contravening conduct exposed SCA, its financial partners and the broader financial system to the risk of exploitation by organise crime, and undermined law enforcement’s capacity to identify and respond to these risks,” it said.

None of the contraventions of Section 81(1) was the product of any deliberate intention to contravene the AML/CTF Act.

“However, having regard to the fundamental character of the obligation imposed by the section, the absence of a deliberate intention to contravene does not carry significant weight,” the submission said.


It said the conduct revealed a “significant failure by SCA to fully understand and discharge its obligations under the AML/CTF Act and the AML/CTF Rules”, because although SCA did have in place systems, processes and procedures directed at achieving compliance with the obligations, they were deficient.

The parties jointly considered the penalty of $67 million would amply achieve both specific and general deterrence, in that it reflected “the serious and unacceptable nature of the contraventions, and ensures that it is not to be regarded as a cost of doing business by SCA”.

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