Cyprus taking no chances with new casino

by William Brown Last Updated
City of Dreams to open in mid-2022 

Cyprus’ gaming regulator has reached an agreement with three different companies to perform detailed checks of international junket operators before they are given the green light to set up at Melco’s new City of Dreams Mediterranean.

Asgam reports that local news outlet in-cyprus reported that the Cyprus Gaming and Casino Supervision Authority will use the trio of companies to conduct due diligence checks on all of Melco’s prospective junket partners to ensure they have no ties to illegal activities such as money laundering and financing of terrorist groups.

The unnamed companies are from the United States, United Kingdom and a third is based out of Cyprus and Malta.

“We want the Cyprus casino to operate on the basis of international standards of full transparency, especially at a time when international pressure on Cyprus is increasing because of the citizenship by investment program and provision of passports to persons with criminal records,” a source familiar with the situation revealed.

The news comes after Australia’s Crown Resorts found itself in hot water recently after an investigation by local authorities into its relationship with Asian junket operators following a series of dramatic television and newspaper reports in July.

Melco Resorts hold a 75 per cent stake in the operating entity of City of Dreams, ICR Cyprus with the remaining 25 per cent owned by a local firm.

ICR Cyprus is currently operating a temporary Cyprus casino facility and three satellite casinos in Nicosia, Larnaca and Ayia Napa.

The 500 million euro City of Dreams is scheduled to open in late 2021.

Crown may not use junket services going forward

Australian casino giant Crown Resorts has indicated it may reduce reliance on Chinese “junket” operators as multiple investigations begin probing revelations it used recruiting firms connected to drug runners and other suspected criminals to lure cashed-up foreign gamblers.

The gambling giant said on Wednesday that it defends its due diligence and oversight of its business partners, with executive John Alexander saying the company was “not a law enforcement agency”, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

Asked if Crown had uncovered any information about alleged links to organised crime and foreign influence agents with its own checks, Mr Alexander said “the obvious answer is no.”

“We rely on all other law enforcing agencies to provide us with background checks and the like,” he said.

“Any time we do any checking at all that produces something unfavourable, that person or entity is barred from being a customer.”

He would not comment further on why Crown had not uncovered the at-times publicly available information linking its partners to organised crime while two state-based inquiries were underway.

Chinese and Hong Kong court files show that one of Crown’s junket partners, Tom Zhou, is an alleged criminal fugitive and the subject of an Interpol “red notice” for financial crime.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club has banned another, Suncity, because of alleged links to organised crime gangs, while local Crown junket partner and VVIP (very, very important person) Simon Pan runs a brothel in Melbourne that has been linked to organised crime and investigated for suspected human trafficking.

Crown on Wednesday reported that the turnover from VIP high-rollers collapsed 26 per cent to $38 billion in the 12 months to June 30.

Crown partner Suncity started scaling back its Australian operations last week and Crown chief financial officer Ken Barton said Crown’s reliance on junkets going forward as an “open question”.

The group has been relying almost entirely on junkets since 2017 when 19 of its staff were arrested in China, where gambling or promoting gambling is illegal.

“Going forward I think it’s an open question of are there other markets that open up, are there other channels that open up,” Mr Barton said.

“Going forward I think it’s an open question of are there other markets that open up, are there other channels that open up.”

Back to top