Pubdate: Tue, 25 Apr 2000
Source: Age, The (Australia)
Copyright: 2000 David Syme & Co Ltd
Contact:  250 Spencer Street, Melbourne, 3000, Australia
Author: Hugh Martin


A man who is now serving an eight-year jail sentence for heroin
trafficking had gambled more than $94million of drug money in six
months through the former Sydney Harbor Casino, now Star City, before
his arrest, it was reported last night.

Duong Van Ia, known to the casino as Van Duong, had been its
second-biggest high-roller before he was arrested in 1998, according
to the ABC's Four Corners television program.

Despite managers being aware that their prize client was suspected by
police of drug trafficking, Van Duong gambled as much a $24million in
a month. He had been identified as one of Australia's best baccarat
players under the casino's "player development" program, which targets
ethnic communities, the program alleged.

New South Wales Casino Control Authority chairwoman Kaye Loder told
the program that she was sorry that police in 1997 banned Van Duong
from the temporary casino, which became Star City casino later that

"I'm sorry to see the money go out of NSW, but I'm speaking
personally," she said.

She said she would not necessarily support background checks for
high-rollers who brought in huge sums of cash to the casino.

"If you have a legal casino, at least you regulate the gambling that
is available and the state obtains some benefit from the revenue," she
said. "If that money is coming from heroin deals and is going into
casino gaming and is coming back to the state in the way of revenue,
it's a matter of debate about whether or not that's a good thing, or
an acceptable thing."

Van Duong had been suspected of supplying the western Sydney suburb of
Cabramatta with most of its heroin and was arrested after being filmed
by police accepting $75,000 for a consignment of heroin.

Van Duong's gambling, which extended to Crown Casino in Melbourne and
Jupiters Casino on the Gold Coast after he was banned from the Sydney
Harbor Casino, demonstrated an increasing acceptance of illegal
activity by Australian casinos, Four Corners said.

It said that loan-sharking, prostitution and drunken gambling were
commonplace, and that Australia's $95billion gambling industry went to
great lengths to increase its customer base.

"Casinos are not at all fussy about the kind of people they attract
and where their money comes from," ABC journalist Quentin McDermott
said in the documentary.

The show related instances of gamblers walking into casinos with brown
paper bags containing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The NSW Casino Control Authority is carrying out a statutory
investigation into how Sydney's casino was run, McDermott said.

However, it is not just the high-rollers casinos are

"Its customer base is gamblers, and in Australia, in increasing
numbers, they are bussed into casinos to play the gaming tables, they
are given incentives to visit pubs and clubs to play the pokies, or
they simply stay at home to be on the internet," Mr McDermott said.

Today for the first time gamblers will be able to play two-up on the
Internet. On-line gambling is targeting a younger market that has
money and understands the Internet, the documentary found.

The United States has banned Internet gambling and Prime Minister John
Howard has proposed a one-year moratorium on the practice.

The pressure to increase gambling in Australia, which leads the world
in the design and development of gambling machines, goes beyond the
gamblers, the program claimed.

"The industry is exerting more and more pressure to get as big a
return as possible from each machine," Mr McDermott said.

He said Tabcorp and Tattersalls own all Victorian poker machines and
hotels and clubs are being forced to pressure their customers to
gamble or face losing them. 
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