Why does the casino world attract organised crime?

Handcuffs with things gaming - playing cards on a white background.

If you’re a fan of casinos movies then you’ll have appreciation that there is generally some element of crime involved – from the stylish thieves of Ocean’s 11 to the cocaine fuelled excess envisaged by Martin Scorcese.

But what is it about the casino business that attracts criminal interests?

In this article we investigate to find some answers.

Beware the whales

A whale is the term used to describe the biggest gamblers on the casino circuit. They bet big, sometimes they win big, often they lose big. It is the whales that the casinos court with free flights, accommodation and entertainment, however it is also the whales that are often associated with criminal activity of some kind.

Trouble down under

Exposure to organised crime seems to be a particular concern in Australia at the moment. Australia is a relatively small market that has had a long-standing love affair with gambling. While the overall revenue may be relatively small when compared to some other gambling destinations around the world, Australia is continuing to invest in new casino properties and is seeking to attract a greater share of gambling tourism.

Law enforcement agencies in Australia are particularly concerned about the whales or high rollers from mainland China, and the operators who facilitate their travel and entry to Australia.

The Macau experience

In the gambling mecca of Macua, whales and high rollers are treated like royalty. Casino operators work with travel organisers to provide a complete gambling service – the transport, the food, the wine, the accommodation, even loans for cash if required.

In order to attract this type of clientele to Australia, Australian casino operators will need to work with the sometimes shady travel organisers in order to deliver the experience that the whales and high rollers expect.

The problem of regulation

One of the challenges faced by law enforcement agencies in Australia, who are working with casino operators to try and prevent the involvement of organised crime, is that the country has a patchwork of regulation covering the enormous geography. Different states and territories each have their own regulatory system which makes it harder to ensure a consistent and unified response in the face of organised crime.

Who are the main players in Australia

Crown Resorts is the biggest casino operator in Australia. Their biggest properties are in Melbourne and Perth, but they have recently been approved to open a new casino in Sydney. The group also owns casinos in London and Macau, with plans to soon open an additional property in Las Vegas.

As part of its push to attract more whales and high-rollers to its Australian casinos, the Crown group has recently invested in a fleet of private jets worth more than $100 million to transport gamblers in style.

It seems that Australia is ready to take the risk, that the lure of revenue from whales and high rollers is outweighing any perceived danger of organised crime that these types of gamblers may bring with them.


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