The movie ‘Casino’, featuring Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, depicts a massive money laundering operation at one of the most prominent casinos in Las Vegas. But while this made an entertaining concept for a film, in real life money laundering is a serious problem for casinos all over the world.
Casinos are still seen as an ideal way for criminals to launder cash in order to avoid detection by the authorities. While the gambling industry has put robust procedures in place in order to prevent such conduct from taking place, it remains a serious issue. Now for the first time, legislation has been passed in United States which will lend clout to the efforts of casinos to clampdown on this fraudulent activity.
Huge global banks are coming under increasing pressure from regulators in the United States to stamp out casino money laundering. Although strong links have already been forged between the financial sector and gambling industry, government enforcement agencies are requiring banks to play an official part in the pursuit of launderers by regulators and prosecutors.
The move comes in the context of central authorities becoming more aggressive about enforcing money laundering regulations with both banks and casinos. In the year 2012 alone, financial institutions paid out a staggering $3.5 billion in anti-money laundering infractions. More amazing still was the fact that this same figure was only $26.6 million in 2011 according to the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists; an increase of over 10,000%.
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Casino operators should be aware that this increased scrutiny is now being transmuted to the gambling industry. The consequences of this are already becoming apparent, with the Las Vegas Sands Corp agreeing to pay the United States Justice Department nearly $50 million related to money laundering errors in August, 2013. This decision came in the context of the head of a major US Treasury agency, Jennifer Shasky Calvery, speaking publicly about the responsibility of the casino industry to prioritise its compliance obligations.
Traditionally, casinos have been a popular target for criminal money laundering given the relative ease with which large scale transfers can be made, with illegal earnings swapped for chips, cleansed through the casino, and then exchanged for clean money. Although casinos are very mindful of this threat, the criminal community has developed ever more sophisticated ways to circumnavigate regulations, and the recent clampdown by the US authorities may soon spread to other jurisdictions.
While everyday punters are unlikely to be hugely affected by this issue, in such a climate casinos must be fully aware of the threat and their obligations.