$6M in Penalties for Hawaiian Gardens Cardroom in Los Angeles

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Hawaiian Gardens Casino has been hit with nearly $6 million in penalties issued by federal and California regulators over gambling compliance failures since 2016.

California Hits Hawaiian Gardens Casino with $3.1m Fine

California state and federal regulators have hit Hawaiian Gardens Casino cardroom with a record $3.1 million settlement fine, CA Attorney General Xavier Becerra confirmed. The Los Angeles cardroom will have to pay the settlement as a result of a failure to present requested information by regulators and effectively misleading officials.

According to the settlement, the cardroom violated the Bank Secrecy Act, which is designed to help prevent attempts to launder money.

Apart from the $3.1 million settlement fine, the casino already had to pay $2.8 million penalty to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a federal regulatory body scrutinizing financial crimes or attempts thereof:

“The Gardens, a card club, admitted that it violated the Bank Secrecy Act’s (BSA) program and reporting requirements and has agreed to future undertakings, including periodic independent reviews to examine and test its BSA Anti-Money Laundering (AML) program.”

According to Becerra, the Hawaiian Gardens Casino purposefully tried to mislead both the California Department of Justice as well as FinCEN and failed to provide all information requested by the competent authorities.

According to California’s Gambling Control Act of 1998, an operator of any form of gambling activity is obliged by law to make full and true disclosure of information pertaining to regulatory investigations.

Based on Bercerra’s account, however, the operator has knowingly hidden information for years. Specifically, the cardroom failed to transmit relevant information to the Bureau of Gambling Control (BGC).

Based on Hawaiian Gardens own admittance of violations, the company has been neglecting responsibilities for nearly seven years, between September 1, 2009 through July 15, 2016 when investigations began in full.

Hawaiian Gardens Casino Hasn’t Notified the BGC about the Investigations

While the cardroom continued to seek license renewals, the casino failed to specify that FinCEN had been investigating the company for potential non-compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act.

More importantly, FinCEN openly doubted Hawaiian Gardens Casino’s compliance with the act, which could have led to a license revision at the time. Even though the operator stated that it had always sought to keep an open communication with regulators, the AG office disagreed.

Failures to notify the BGC were clear violations of the Gambling Control Act and any responsibilities outlined by the Act. Becerra criticized the way the Hawaiian Gardens Casino handled the situation:

“There’s no excuse for failing to comply with the law and deliberately attempting to mislead regulators. At the California Department of Justice, we will do all we can to prevent the marriage of money laundering and casinos.”

Everyone Relieved to Have a Settlement

With the settlement finalized, Hawaiian Gardens general counsel, Keith Sharp, has confirmed that the company and its 2,000 employees were ‘relieved,’ as paying a fine was a far better outcome than having the license suspended.

The California Gambling Control Commission also recently approved a $90 million renovation project. Nevertheless, the cardroom will now be put under a two-year supervision period during which the company will need to comply with all regulatory measures.

‘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,’ Sharp reassured the public.

Last month, investigators apprehended a duo who had defrauded $200,000 from California’s Red Hawk Tribal Casino.

Photo image: The Gardens Casino

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