New measures are on their way to deter criminals using SkyCity to launder cash, the casino’s chief risk officer says.

The pledge is being made after the company was set to face huge fines in both New Zealand and Australia.

In June, its Adelaide business was ordered to pay a A$67 million ($74 million) fine plus A$3 million in legal costs for breaches of Australia’s Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act.

And SkyCity Auckland has found itself in trouble too — it reached an agreement with Internal Affairs for breaches of NZ’s similarly titled law — the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act. It looks set to pay a $4.16 million fine, though that is still subject to the High Court’s approval.

New measures are on their way to deter criminals using SkyCity to launder cash, the casino says.

SkyCity’s chief risk officer Carolyn Kidd is the new broom brought in with a mandate to tackle money-laundering. Her background is in banking — a sector that is itself a massive target for criminals trying to get money generated by illegal drugs into the financial system.

Kidd told called the casino’s failures an expensive lesson. “Very expensive,” she said. “We’re determined to make sure that we continue to get better and be better to keep criminals out. We do not want them coming into our casinos.”

The High Court denied a 1News request to look at the detail of the breaches earlier in the year. But what we do know is that the failures happened between 2018 and 2023 and covered areas relating to the company’s compliance programme, its monitoring of accounts and transactions, as well as customer due diligence.

The last one is significant because casinos have a legal obligation to understand where gamblers’ wealth comes from.

In Australia, SkyCity’s breaches of the act over many years, “allowed high-risk customers to move millions of dollars through the casino, in ways that made the source and ownership of the funds unclear”, the regulator AUSTRAC said.

The company failed to carry out checks on 121 customers including some where SkyCity knew they were subject of law enforcement interest.

Yvonne Tahana explains the techniques and tactics used by money launderers, and how banks and authorities tackle them.

The level of detail in court papers is startling.

One customer had a combined buy-in of more than A$1.8 million but that did not “appear to be commensurate with their stated occupation (‘mechanical engineer’)”. Another “rail manager” had a combined buy-in of A$3.3 million in 2021 — the casino never requesting additional “source of wealth information” from the player. They were not barred from the casino until 2022.

A total of 56 “higher risk customers” spent A$436 million dollars, losing A$45.7 million. One financial crime expert told 1News that a loss of about 10% to potentially launder money wasn’t a bad loss — from a criminal perspective.

Police found the bolthole in an open wardrobe where one section was on tracks and rolled back and forward.

SkyCity on both sides of the Tasman was therefore vowing to make improvements.

Kidd in Auckland says more than 100 specialists were now working in risk, financial crime and host responsibility. Enhancement to facial recognition technology was also underway, but the biggest single measure was introducing mandatory carded-play across casinos by mid-2025.

“That means we know who you are, we understand where your source of wealth and your source of funds is, and we can monitor that activity, you know, across our casinos,” Kidd said.

“It is reputational damage to SkyCity and we want our communities and all of our stakeholders to trust us to do the right thing.”

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