Fresh allegations in Australia over the country’s casino industry and its relationship with gambling junkets have emerged – and this time a state government is being urged to act fast.

Queensland’s gambling regulator has admitted it is investigating an “illegal junket operation” at The Ville Casino and Resort in Townsville.

It is claimed The Ville involved a restaurant owner in Melbourne, who was paid thousands of dollars to attract primarily Asian gamblers to his restaurant and the casino. The meals were part of an unofficial junket that, it is alleged, were not licensed by Queensland state.

Another claim suggests gamblers were offered private jets to fly out to The Ville in order to gamble.

The revelations have emerged after a Channel 9 program 60 Minutes once again reported on alleged illegal junket operations in the country.

So far the likes of The Crown Melbourne, The Crown Perth, The Crown Sydney, The Star Sydney and The Star Gold Coast have come under scrutiny over allegations of money laundering and ties with Chinese junket operators.

The Ville’s restaurant scheme supposedly targeted Asian gamblers who were unable to use the under-investigation Star Entertainment and Crown Resorts.

Queensland is currently conducting the Gotterson Inquiry into a string of allegations across the state. And Queensland’s government is now being urged to widen its net on investigations into allegations at The Ville.

According to reports, The Ville paid an alleged illegal junket operators “in cash and loyalty points” in order to attract “high rollers” to its casino. The state’s Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation  (OLGR) is investigating, while The Ville say there are factual inaccuracies in the 60 Minutes report.

What Happened?

The 60 Minutes show alleges a VIP member, Paul Desmond, was also approached by a senior executive about ways to attract high rollers from Sydney and Melbourne.

The aim was to get gamblers to put an initial $13,700 (AU$20,000) into a gambling account, and then as much as $102,000 (AU$150,000) before being flown by private jet to the casino.

However, talks fell through. “At first I didn’t think of it as a junket or like we’re doing anything wrong,” said Desmond. “I knew a lot of high rollers and I was bringing people up anyway for free.”

Desmond then realised he wasn’t licensed to do what, it is alleged, the casino asked. The OLGR requires junket licenses be approved. And so he spoke out.

Desmond now wants the Gotterson Inquiry expanded, and told ABC: “They think they’re above the law or think they’re above the government. They’ve got people gambling there [in casinos] that have criminal records and spending large amounts of cash, and they obviously know that and they still allow them.”

Queensland Reaction

According to sources in Australia, the 60 Minutes report caught authorities off guard. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says she wasn’t aware of the allegations. In response, Alliance for Gambling Reform chief advocate Tim Costello said: “60 Minutes is a national program – how can the Premier and her staff not be briefed on it?

“This is just the Premier being really head in the sand.”

There are now calls to widen the Gotterson Inquiry, which is already probing:

  • Junket operations
  • Casino relationship with VIP patrons and high rollers
  • Casino commitment to anti-money laundering responsibilities
  • Use of China UnionPay debit or credit card facilities

Shadow Attorney-General Tim Nicholls says the state opposition has called for the Inquiry to expand and include interaction between Star Entertainment Group, its board members, the executive government, lobbyists and unions.

“The commissioner doesn’t have the power to call for evidence,” Mr Nicholls said.

“The government must act to broaden the terms of the scope of the inquiry that’s currently underway. These matters and issues have been going on for a long time and I think really the government has been forced to take this step.”

Joseph Ellison

Joseph is a dedicated journalist and horse racing fanatic who has been writing about sports and casinos for over a decade. He has worked with some of the UK's top bookmakers and provides Premier League soccer tips on a regular basis. You'll likely find him watching horse racing or rugby when he isn't writing about sport.

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