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Wynn Resorts’ dealings with high-rollers under federal investigation

TAGs: Internal Revenue Service, IRS, money laundering, Wynn Resorts

wynn-resorts-federal-investigationThe Wall Street Journal is reporting that US federal authorities are probing casino operator Wynn Resorts’ dealings with its top gambling clients at its properties in Las Vegas and Macau. Sources told the WSJ the probe involved the US Attorneys in both Las Vegas and Manhattan, as well as the Internal Revenue Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

In August, Wynn’s outside lawyer Donald Campbell received a letter from the IRS requesting info on its top 100 customers in North America and the 50 biggest in (each of) Asia, Europe and Latin America covering the years 2011 to 2013. Along with their names, the IRS sought the customers’ dates of birth, social security numbers and other data from identification documents.

The IRS also asked for an organizational chart detailing which Wynn execs worked in casino and credit operations, details of branch offices at home and abroad that enlist gamblers seeking credit as well as information on Wynn’s anti-money-laundering (AML) protocols. Sources told the WSJ that investigators were interested in not only Wynn’s casino customers but their sports bettors as well.

Michael Weaver, Wynn’s senior VP of marketing, told the WSJ the company was unaware of any criminal investigation and had “serious doubts” that one was underway. A Wynn spokesman told CNBC that just because information has been requested “in no way implies the accusation of any wrongdoing by the company.”

The Wynn investigation is the latest in a string of casino-related investigations as federal agencies angle for a better view of what’s behind the high-roller curtain. In June, the director of the US Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN) publicly warned casino operators that they were the equivalent of “complex financial institutions” that needed to start “thinking like other financial institutions” when it came to AML practices.

In August 2013, Las Vegas Sands agreed to pay $47.4m to resolve a US Department of Justice investigation into Sands moving over $100m on behalf of a suspected methamphetamine supplier. In January 2013, Sands agreed to curtail the practice of conducting international money transfers on behalf of its high-rolling clients.

MGM Resorts has come under similar fire for transferring $20m on behalf of a high-roller who turned out to be a retail electronics executive who earned just $200k per year and had been funding his betting via illegal kickbacks from suppliers. In October 2013, Caesars Entertainment announced that it was under investigation for possible violations of the Bank Secrecy Act at its Caesars Palace property in Las Vegas.

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