Las Vegas Casinos have always been a target for money launderers who are always looking for loopholes to wash their dirty money. The VIP gambling segment poses the biggest threat to Vegas casinos as they are known for spending millions of dollars in a short period of time and often times this money is dirty.
The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has been keeping a close watch on Vegas casinos for the last couple of years and has cautioned all casinos in the country to fully comply with the anti-money laundering regulations in place to ensure that no money laundering takes place at their casinos. FinCEN has threatened casinos who violate these anti-money laundering regulations with criminal charges and heft penalties and has already set examples by hitting casinos with huge fines.
The U.S. Justice Department concluded after an investigation in 2013 that the Las Vegas Sands Corp had allowed Chinese-Mexican drug lord Zhenli Ye Gon to spend more than $84 million at the Venetian casino without properly following anti-money laundering regulations and as a result hit the Las Vegas Sands Corp with a $47 million fine. FinCEN imposed an $8 million fine on Caesars Entertainment Corp in 2015 for failing to follow anti-money laundering regulations in its VIP rooms and allowing VIP players to conceal their identity and high value transactions.
The Las Vegas Sands Corp recently took two VIP Chinese gamblers to court for failing to pay back $6.4 million in gambling debt. The two women in their 50s lost millions of dollars playing baccarat, a game that Asian gamblers love to play. However the attorneys representing the two Chinese women state that they were not VIP gamblers but housekeepers hired by the Sands Corp to act as a front in signing IOUs and taking huge piles of money to the table where the actual VIP gamblers were seated.
The Sands Corp is alleged to have been aware of this operation at the Venetian and Palazzo casinos that was a front for money laundering. The attorneys alleged that “the Venetian/Palazzo’s conduct may have run afoul of federal criminal anti-money laundering laws”. A representative for the Sands Corp denied these allegations and stated that a smokescreen was being put up to divert attention from the fact that these two Chinese women owed the Sands Corp millions of dollars.
Irrespective of the final ruling in the case, FinCEN will want to keep an even closer watch on Las Vegas casinos and the VIP gambling segment.