Australian Public to Learn of Crown Resorts Fate in Two Weeks

people in board room
Crown Resorts has been told of the findings of a New South Wales government inquiry into its operations and suitability to hold its casino licence in Sydney, with the findings set to be released to the public “within two weeks”.

The head of the inquiry, Commissioner Patricia Bergin, has handed down her findings into the $6.5 billion ASX-listed giant’s suitability to operate a casino in Barangaroo, the Australian Financial Review reports.

The findings could prompt the NSW regulator to completely revoke Crown’s Barangaroo gambling licence or impose strict conditions after the investigation extracted a concession from Crown that money laundering may have occurred through its bank accounts and it unearthed corporate governance failures and links to organised crime during public hearings.

The money-laundering allegations sparked an investigation by the financial crimes watchdog AUSTRAC, which is still underway.

The closing submission by the counsel assisting the NSW inquiry, Naomi Sharp, SC, found that the casino was unsuitable to hold an NSW licence and concluded that Crown Resorts had never had processes that were robust enough to assess the integrity of its controversial junket partners and its links with them, which were promoted by billionaire major shareholder James Packer.

If the group keeps the gaming licence, changes to Crown’s management and board might be mandated and Mr Packer might be required to sell down some of his holding in Crown to lessen what counsel assisting the inquiry called his “deleterious” influence.

The inquiry was sparked by media reports that put the junket operators at the centre of the company’s failures regarding anti-money laundering laws.

Crown has suspended these links that were connected to the arrest of 19 Crown employees in China in 2016 for illegally promoting gambling, one of the focuses of the Bergin inquiry.

Following revelations from the NSW inquiry, the company now faces a beefed-up licence review by the Victorian regulator.

Crown operates the only casino in Melbourne.

Crown opened its Sydney Crown Towers hotel, bars and two restaurants at the new Barangaroo building on January 8, after the NSW regulator issued a temporary liquor licence until April 30 for non-gaming activities.

Crown Melbourne tops list of Aussie junket transactions

Crown Melbourne tops list of Aussie junket transactions
The majority of transactions involved junket tours in Australia were at Melbourne’s Crown Casino, a new report has revealed.

The Herald Sun reported in December that 295 transactions linked with junkets were made in Melbourne, according to figures from Australia’s financial crimes watchdog.

In total, the Victorian casino made 50,000 reports to the watchdog in 2019, including almost 5000 relating to suspicious transactions.

Austrac warned junket tour operators this month they were the target of organised criminal syndicates and foreign spies seeking to launder money through casinos and potentially make political donations.

Junkets bring in high roller gamblers from China to casinos and extend credit to them, enabling them to get around Beijing’s tight controls on capital.

Austrac introduced a new risk assessment that identified some tour operators had links with criminal organisations.

Businesses, including casinos, are required to report any people or transactions that could be linked with crime using a suspicious matter report.

Austrac chief executive Nicole Rose said casinos needed to comply with the rules to disrupt criminal activities, including foreign interference.

“Money laundering and financial crime enable serious criminal activity such as drug trafficking and human trafficking, which causes harm to our communities,” Ms Rose said.

“I urge casinos to take prompt action by assessing their levels of risk posed by junket operators, strengthening their controls and reporting suspicious activity to Austrac.”

Crown confirmed in November it had suspended all junket operators until June 2021 while a “comprehensive review” of company practices was completed.

“The board has determined that Crown will permanently cease dealing with all junket operators, subject to consultation with gaming regulators in Victoria, Western Australia and NSW,” a Crown statement to the ASX said.

“Crown will only recommence dealing with a junket operator if that junket operator is licensed or otherwise approved or sanctioned by all gaming regulators in the states in which Crown operates.”

William Brown

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