In Australia, the FCA has accused Crown Resorts of turning a blind eye to loan sharks targeting gamblers in its Crown Perth casino. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
Lending and death threats
Crown Resorts is still facing the heat in Western Australia (WA) as a Royal Commission assesses its suitability to hold a casino license. In the latest twist in the story, Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) has raised concerns over predatory lending on the gaming floor of the operator’s Crown Perth casino.
a gambler subjected to death threats after receiving a loan of AU$10,000 (US$7,257)
Speaking with the Royal Commission, the financial counselors body has revealed the details of multiple cases in which loan sharks have targeted gamblers in or near Crown Perth. As reported by ABC Australia, one such instance saw a gambler subjected to death threats after receiving a loan of AU$10,000 (US$7,257) on the gaming floor.
Crown Perth general manager of security and surveillance Brian Lee responded to the accusations last week. He said the casino had taken steps to issue bans to suspected loan sharks with a minimum term of two years. However, one predatory lender supposedly operated in the casino for 11 years before receiving a ban.
Victims come forward
Under current Australian law, casinos such as Crown Perth cannot provide credit to patrons. However, according to the FCA, Crown Resorts has turned a blind eye to the operations of loan sharks in the Western Australia casino. Speaking with ABC Australia this week, Lauren Levin, director of policy and campaigns for the FCA, described Crown’s inaction as a form of “willful blindness.”
he would “end up with concrete boots” if he failed to repay
The FCA noted a number of instances in which loan sharks preyed on Crown Perth patrons. One gambler, named Stuart, lost AU$10,000 (US$7,257) he had received as part of a loan shark agreement on the gaming floor. He later received intimidating texts from the lender, with one threatening that he would “end up with concrete boots” if he failed to repay.
Another Crown Perth gambler, Aarush, sought help from the FCA with a debt of AU$100,000 (US$72,574). Although he initially said he owed this to friends, he later confessed he borrowed the money from a loan shark in the casino. Aarush had to pay the lender around 50% on top of what he borrowed initially.
Loan shark avoids ban
Crown Perth general manager of security and surveillance Brian Lee has defended the casino’s operations by noting its system of banning any suspected loan sharks. However, the Royal Commission has heard evidence that one predatory lender operated in the casino for more than a decade before receiving a ban, despite staff raising numerous notifications in regard to his behavior.
A customer first complained about the suspected loan shark, a high roller known as Patron S, in 2009. After this point, the casino’s security and surveillance team raised concerns around Patron S’s loan sharking behavior on 18 separate occasions between 2013 and 2015. Despite this, the supposed lender only received a ban from the establishment last year.
In addition to its criticism of the casino itself, the FCA has also taken aim at the WA casino regulator. Levin has described the industry body as “a lame duck,” urging the Australian government to introduce a national regulator instead. “It doesn’t have the tools, it doesn’t have the regulation, it doesn’t have the desire,” she told ABC.
Criticism from all angles
In addition to this criticism in regard to predatory lenders, Crown Perth is also facing the heat on a number of other issues.
Last week, the Royal Commission heard of links between Crown Perth’s high roller business and organized crime. A police commissioner told the inquiry that criminals utilize the Hawala system to offset cash through casino junkets. He said this allows them to avoid detection from authorities while cleaning illicit funds.
kept its VIP room open during the last lockdown
Just a few days prior, WA officials also heard testimony from a Crown Perth employee who claimed the casino had transgressed COVID-19 lockdown rules. She told the commission that the casino kept its VIP room open during the last lockdown period. In contrast, Lee told officials that the gambling facility had permission from the authorities to stay in business.