Following an 18-month inquiry, Sydney’s newly opened Crown Resorts has been deemed unsuitable to officially operate as the city’s second licensed casino.
Headed by former Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin, the inquiry was commissioned in response to suspicions of money laundering, gambling law breaches, and alleged partnerships with junket operators with links to drug traffickers, money launderers, human traffickers, and organised crime groups.
The allegations resurfaced at the beginning of 2019 by Nine Entertainment Co. properties the Nine Network, The Sydney Morning Herald, and The Age, accusing “Crown Resorts or its agents, affiliates or subsidiaries” of the breaches listed above. Before that, allegations of criminality within Crown was initially raised by an ABC Four Corners investigation in 2014.
Commissioned by NSW’s Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA), the report came before the State Parliament earlier this afternoon and has since been reported widely throughout the country. Within the report, Bergin stated that the company behind Crown Towers would need to make significant cultural changes if it wanted to be considered a suitable operator in the future. Although for now, that means the casino element of Crown’s $2.2 billion property may be blocked from opening as scheduled.
Alleged systemic issues at Crown’s existing properties in Melbourne and Perth were subject of the inquiry, which also examined whether Crown breaches any regulatory arrangements when former executive chairman James Packer sold a portion of his shares in Crown Resort to Melco Resorts, a Hong Kong based gaming titan.
Notably, an ambitiously expensive hotel and several new restaurants have already been opened within the Barangaroo skyscraper.
The report also admonishes the Crown for “corporate arrogance” and states that “one of the difficulties for Crown was its unjustified belief in itself and its unwillingness to entertain the prospect that there was any force in any of the Media Allegations”.
Particular aim has been taken at Crown Resorts’ chief executive, and Crown Sydney Gaming director, Ken Barton, who has been described as “no match for what is needed at the helm of a casino Licensee” in the report. Bergin goes on to state that the NSW gaming regulator “would be justified in concluding that it cannot have any confidence in dealing with Mr Barton as a director of the Licensee or Crown”.
Apparently the “core problems” that have led to Commissioner Bergin’s recommendation for Crown Resorts involved “poor corporate governance” and “deficient risk-management structures”.
It has been noted that the operator expresses the need for cultural change as recommended and has identified matters requiring “urgent attention and rectification”.
Whatever the case, it’s safe to say that the likelihood of the property’s casino component opening any time soon is slim. But hey, at least the last remaining lockout laws in Sydney are due to be officially scrapped from next month.