SkyCity bans junkets immediately

by William Brown Last Updated
SkyCity bans junkets immediately

New Zealand-headquartered SkyCity Entertainment has vowed to permanently cease all dealings with junket operators at its casinos in Australia and New Zealand.

Asgam reports the decision to bring SkyCity’s international VIP operations in-house was made following the conclusion of a strategic review into the company’s International Business division.

The ban, effective immediately, follows the decision by Crown Resorts to suspend its junket operations, shortly before the release of a report into the suitability of the operator to hold a casino licence in New South Wales.

In an ASX announcement on Tuesday morning, SkyCity said it has determined to permanently cease dealing with all junket operators and will instead operate its International Business under a revised operating model.

That model will see SkyCity “deal directly with International Business patrons after appropriate Know Your Customer and customer due diligence requirements are satisfied.”

The company added that it will consult with relevant gaming regulators in New Zealand, where it operates casinos in Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington and in Australia, where it recently completed an A$330 million upgrade of SkyCity Adelaide.

Crown Resorts has already announced a similar ban on working with junket operators, while regulators in WA, home to Crown Perth, have implemented a junket ban of their own.

The Bergin Report recommended junkets also be banned in New South Wales, although local authorities have yet to act on any such measures.

Crown suspends junket operations until mid-next year

 Crown Resorts will suspend all activity with junket partners until June 30, 2021.

GGR Asia reported last September that the casino operator said the move was part of its review on “compliance and governance processes”.

Crown Resorts’ flagship property, Crown Melbourne, is currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement of the pause comes as a public inquiry ordered by the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority investigates the relationship between Crown Resorts and junket operators in bringing players from overseas, and how much oversight the casino firm was exercising over that business segment.

The inquiry has been considering Crown Resorts’ suitability for a casino licence at a new property it has been developing in Sydney.

An original focus of the inquiry had been the suitability of Macau operator Melco Resorts, led by Lawrence Ho, a son of the late former Macau casino kingpin Stanley Ho, to be an investor in Crown Resorts.

The inquiry has since shifted its focus since Melco Resorts sold off its interests in the Australian firm.

Last Thursday, Naomi Sharp, a lawyer assisting the inquiry, had questioned what practical impact a suspension of Crown Resorts’ ties with outside junkets would have, while Australia’s borders are effectively closed to inbound travellers from overseas.

“With Crown Melbourne closed, which is our main casino, there’s been no prospect of any significant junket activity,” Crown Resorts’ chief executive Ken Barton said.

Mr Barton also told the inquiry that his company was implementing recommendations made by professional services firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.

Crown Resorts had asked the consultant to prepare a report on an approval process for its external junkets.

“The anti-money laundering team or the financial crimes team will be the predominant source of review of the approval or continuation of a relationship with a junket. I will be having oversight, but the financial crimes team reports through to the board,” Mr Barton stated.

“Ultimately, it will be the head of financial crimes who will decide whether we commence or continue a relationship with a junket,” he added.

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