For months, the business practices of Crown Resorts have been discussed as part of an ongoing inquiry by the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority. This has resulted in a wave of bad publicity, as well as mounting government scrutiny.

Originally reported by the media in 2019, the primary sins of Crown are twofold. First, they appear to have allowed their gambling facilities to be used as a source for money laundering. Second, they have a long history of dealing with junket operators with ties to organised crime. The term “junkets” refers to gambling promoters who help bring foreign high rollers to Australian casinos.

A Change in Strategy

As befitting a wealthy corporation, Crown has thrown an army of lawyers at the problem. They’ve carefully steered their client through difficult waters, although it hasn’t been easy. For example, company attorneys recently confirmed that two Crown bank accounts were used to launder money originally gained through criminal activity.

The above admission didn’t sit well with Commissioner Patricia Bergin, the person ultimately responsible for handing down a decision. No doubt, this was compounded by the fact that Crown had avoided responsibility for more than a year. According to her, “It is a most serious development.”

As a desperate ploy, Crown announced that it would halt dealings with all junket operators. However, lawyer Perry Herzfeld said the move should not be viewed as an admission that Crown’s due diligence process involving junkets was “not robust.”

In a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange, Crown added, “Crown will permanently cease dealing with all junket operators, subject to consultation with gaming regulators in Victoria, Western Australia and New South Wales.”

According to Crown, business ties with junket operators might resume in the future. However, this would only happen if the operator was licensed or otherwise approved by regulators in all states where Crown operates.

Crown Sydney Delay

Now, after months of testimony, the inquiry is entering its final week. Unfortunately for Crown, they’ve already been dealt a major blow.

Originally, the $2.2 billion Crown Sydney casino was set to open in Barangaroo in December. But now, after being deemed unsuitable to hold a gambling license in the state, Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority Chairman Philip Crawford has thrown Crown another curve.

Philip Crawford of ILGA

He stated that he wasn’t comfortable with Crown taking on more responsibility within the state. Crawford also expressed disappointment that the company hadn’t voluntarily pushed back the opening. Therefore, an emergency ILGA meeting was held on Wednesday, at which time Crown was denied the right to commence gambling at the Barangaroo property.

Ultimately, Crawford said that too many questions remained regarding the company’s behaviour. “We’re talking about – potentially – drugs, we’re talking about child sexual exploitation, we’re talking about people trafficking and we’re talking about financial terrorism.”

Crown still plans to open their new venue in December. However, no gambling options will be available at that time. With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging across the planet, it may not be the best time to open what’s now essentially a giant hotel and restaurant.

What the Future Holds

The inquiry commissioner, Patricia Bergin, is scheduled to make her findings known in February of 2021. If she recommends a loss of license, Crowns Resorts will be in major financial jeopardy, and other Aussie state regulators may begin to circle like vultures.

I imagine Crown will now enter a phase of shamelessly begging for forgiveness. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see one or more corporate sacrificial lambs offered up to the ILGA. Of course, whether or not the commission buys into any of this remains to be seen.

Additional Reading

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