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Dirty laundry: Should casinos be responsible for knowing where the money comes from?

Venetian owner Sheldon Adelson spent more than $50 million on the 2012 Presidential election. And now, the government wants another $100 million from him. It’s got nothing to do with politics; the Justice Department says the Las Vegas Sands Corp. could be charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The potentially laundered money came from a former Fry’s Electronics executive (Ausaf Umar Siddiqui) and a Chinese-born Mexican businessman (Zhenil Ye Gon). Siddiqui was jailed for accepting illegal kickbacks; Ye Gon was indicted on drug trafficking charges. They both liked to gamble at Adelson’s properties.

The Justice Department isn’t claiming that the Sands knew the money was dirty; they’re saying the Sands should have known the money was potentially dirty, and that the Sands had a duty to investigate and alert authorities before allowing Ye Gon and Siddiqui to gamble. If the Justice Department could prove that the Sands showed “willful blindness” or “flagrant organizational indifference” to the money’s source, the Sands could be looking at not only a $100 million fine, but also criminal charges for at least one executive.

The parties are currently in settlement talks. Presumably, a settlement would involve a smaller fine, dropped criminal charges and a promise on behalf of the Sands Corp. to alert authorities should a similar situation come up in the future.

No matter how this turns out, though, something tells me Adelson is going to pull through just fine.

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