Feds Ramp Up Attacks on Gaming

A report in the Wall Street Journal last week indicated that the federal government is targeting Wynn Resorts in a money-laundering probe. The government had previously charged Las Vegas Sands and continues an active investigation into Caesars Entertainment for similar issues. Jennifer Shasky Calvery (l.), the director of the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, put the industry on notice last year.

“Don’t say you weren’t warned” could be the lesson that the gaming industry is learning when dealing with the federal government on currency reporting.

When Jennifer Shasky Calvery, the director of the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, appeared at Global Gaming Expo in 2013, her message was that the industry needed to concentrate on currency transactions. Not only did the industry need to correctly identify the persons making the financial transactions, it also had to report the source of those funds. She also warned of suspicious use of funds used for gaming in real estate transactions, lengthy deposits in the casinos’ cages, leaving the casino with large amounts of gaming chips and other.

Las Vegas Sands admitted wrongdoing in the summer of 2013 and paid the government more than $47 million to end the investigation. Caesars Entertainment announced in October of last year that it was under investigation for possible violations of the Bank Secrecy Act.

And last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Wynn Resorts was being probed by the Manhattan and Las Vegas U.S. Attorney’s offices and investigators from the Internal Revenue Service and Drug Enforcement Administration for possible violations of money-laundering laws.

Wynn Resorts pointed out that it has not been accused of any wrongdoing, and denied knowledge of any investigation.

“We are not aware of any criminal investigation of the company whatsoever and we have serious doubts that any such investigation is taking place,” said Michael Weaver, Wynn’s senior vice president of marketing. “No agency has notified the company that it is under any investigation.”

The Journal reported that Wynn’s outside counsel, Donald Campbell had been notified with a request to provide information on Wynn’s U.S. and foreign clients, its domestic and overseas marketing offices, and its internal controls.

Weaver said those kinds of requests are not unusual and are part of doing business in the casino industry.

“As a highly regulated business we are in a constant dialogue with regulators and governmental agencies on a variety of matters and the fact that information is requested from us by a governmental agency in no way implies the accusation of any wrongdoing by the company,” he said. “We do not comment on specific interactions with regulators and agencies, but as a general matter we always fully cooperate with them.”

In early 2013, the Justice Department announced it was investigating a $135 million donation made by Wynn Resorts to the University of Macau. Some Wynn critics claim it was a bribe to be allowed to purchase land in the Cotai region of Macau where Wynn’s new Palace casino is now under construction. No wrongdoing was found, however.