A months-long public inquiry deems Crown Resorts unsuitable to operate a new Sydney casino due to allegations of money laundering.
Media first raised the allegations in 2014. Since then the casino complex has been built but there are no signs its gaming portion will open soon.
Commissioner Patricia Bergin, a former Supreme Court judge said in a final report from the Crown probe, commissioned by NSW’s Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA), that if the company wanted to be considered suitable for future operations, a number of significant cultural changes needed to be implemented.
Bergin’s recommendations must still be officially adopted by the ILGA but in the meantime, the casino component of Crown’s A$2.2 billion skyscraper won’t be allowed to operate.
Crown said in its statement that it is strongly considering the report and will work with the ILGA and the State Government “in relation to the findings and recommendations”.
The inquiry aimed to find out if Crown was fit to receive a gaming license for the new facility. The gambling regulator ordered the probe because of systematic issues at Crown’s existing casinos in Melbourne and Perth.
There are existing rumors about money laundering that link Crown with private junket operators who source the company’s VIP clients from overseas.
After chairman James Packer sold part of his shares to Asian gaming giant Melco Resorts & Entertainment, his actions were viewed as potential violation of Crown’s regulatory agreements. The inquiry investigated that as well as Packer’s involvement in the company after stepping down from his position.
According to the report, evaluating Crown’s future operations, the company was unfit to open the new facility due to “poor corporate governance” and “deficient risk-management structures”.
The cultural changes were not the only recommendation in the report. It made 19 more, including several changes to the Casino Control Act, which was specifically aimed to address money laundering activities previously uncovered by the inquiry.
Other suggestions from the report include the establishment of the Independent Casino Commission to operate independently with powers of a standing Royal Commission to regulate the gaming sector. Ultimately, ICC will grant licenses and make disciplinary actions.
The report also suggested forbidding NSW casino operators from dealing with junket operators.
NSW Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello said that the State Government welcomed the recommendations but before making an official response on the matter, will consider them very carefully.
According to Justin Field, independent NSW MP, Bergin’s report announced that Crown’s Barangaroo license should be terminated.
He said: “What’s absolutely clear is there is no way this casino can be allowed to be opened in February”.
He added: “Ultimately it is up to Crown if it wants to take the steps outlined in the report to try to ‘convert to suitability’, but in the interest of the people of NSW, the current licence and agreement with Crown should be torn up.”
Source: “Crown Resorts not suitable to operate Sydney casino, inquiry finds”, ABC News, February 9, 2021