Thursday, October 29, 2020

Hawaiian Gardens Casino pays $6 million fine for lax money-laundering controls and misleading regulators

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California’s second-largest card room, Hawaiian Gardens Casino is paying state and federal regulators nearly $6 million for misleading gambling regulators and failing to do enough to deter money laundering, the state’s attorney general said Thursday.

Hawaiian Gardens Casino, which recently completed a $90 million renovation, must comply with regulations for two years if it wants to keep its license under the terms of the state settlement approved Thursday by the California Gambling Control Commission.

“Gardens Casino has strong procedures in place and several years ago we put in place the necessary corrective measures to ensure these issues do not re-occur,” the company’s general counsel, Keith Sharp, said in a statement. He said the company, its 2,000 employees and the community are pleased to have the settlement finalized.

The card room has 225 tables, but none of the slot machines that are reserved for tribal casinos in California. It’s the major source of tax revenue for Hawaiian Gardens, the smallest city in Los Angeles County.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the card room will pay the state $3.1 million for misleading gambling regulators and violating a federal law intended to prevent money laundering.
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It’s the largest settlement in the history of the state Bureau of Gambling Control, Becerra’s office said, surpassing the previous record of $2.1 million. The investigation also led to a first-of-its-kind collaboration between California and federal regulators to share information and offer training to the gambling industry.

Becerra said the company failed to disclose a federal Financial Crimes Enforcement Network investigation into its practices and attempted to deceive the California Department of Justice for years.

FinCEN imposed an additional $2.8 million penalty for failing to have an effective anti-money laundering program; failing to report certain transactions involving currency in amounts greater than $10,000; failing to report certain suspicious activity; and failing to keep appropriate records between 2009 and 2016.

“There’s no excuse for failing to comply with the law and deliberately attempting to mislead regulators,” Becerra said. “For 24 months they’re going to be under our scrutiny to make sure that they are … dotting their Is and crossing their Ts. And if they don’t, then they’re subject to having their license yanked.”

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The company failed for years to report to state regulators that it was being investigated by the federal Treasury Department or that it was admitting to violating federal law. Becerra said the company submitted under penalty of perjury multiple applications for license renewals to the state Bureau of Gambling Control without disclosing the information.

California Gaming Association President Kyle Kirkland noted that the violations occurred several years ago and centered around inaccurate reporting, with no evidence of actual money laundering.

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