Victoria asks Crown for a please explain
Victoria has commenced disciplinary proceedings against Crown Resorts, as it remains in the midst of a New South Wales government inquiry into its suitability to hold a casino licence at its yet-to-be-opened Barangaroo casino.
Calvin Ayre reports that Crown’s chair Helen Coonan confirmed last Friday that the Crown Sydney property will start its soft opening on December 14, months ahead of a report by the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority inquiry.
The inquiry saw dramatic testimony from Crown’s largest shareholder James Packer last week, who acknowledged the company’s numerous anti-money laundering compliance failures in its dealings with high-roller gamblers and the junket operators who ferry those VIPs to Crown’s casinos.
Last Friday, director Harold Mitchell continued the “see no evil” stance adopted by other Crown executives who’ve previously testified to the inquiry, saying he only recently learned specifics on the role junkets play in Crown’s ecosystem and he now hopes “I never hear the word junket again”.
Mr Mitchell also admitted he’d failed to scrutinise the activities of two shell companies Crown set up to help cross-border movement of cash on behalf of gamblers.
Mitchell said he “assumed” Crown’s senior executives would handle this task, furthering the impression that everyone at Crown assumed someone else was handling the difficult stuff.
Mr Mitchellalso told the inquiry that Crown’s board “should have” been informed of internal emails detailing threats Crown’s China-based staff had received from VIP gambler Qiyun Zhou if they stopped advancing him credit to gamble.
The ongoing New South Wales inquiry will now take place amidst the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation’s own investigation.
The VCGLR called Crown to “show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken for failing to ensure that controls regarding junket participants were implemented” at the company’s Melbourne casino.
Last year, reports surfaced that the Suncity Group junket was running an illegal “cash desk” at Crown’s Melbourne VIP room.
The room was legally permitted to have around A$100,000 cash on hand, but A$5.6 million was found stashed in a cupboard.
The VCGLR sait it will wait to hear Crown’s response before considering whether to impose a fine, issue a letter of censure or direct the company to amend its operations.
The regulator has been accused of being too cozy with Crown, particularly after it renewed its Melbourne licence in 2018 despite evidence that the casino had tampered with its video poker machines to allow high-rollers to circumvent responsible gambling limits, along with numerous other failings.
Packer fronts government inquiry
Crown Resorts’ majority shareholder James Packer has finally fronted the New South Wales public inquiry into Crown’s suitability to hold a casino licence in the state.
Brisbane Times reported in October that Mr Packer, 53, told the inquiry he had been diagnosed and was being treated for “bipolar disorder”, using the past tense in an attempt to explain his previous “shameful” conduct, offering: “I was sick at the time.”
Mr Packer gave nothing away during the grilling, despite the incredibly high stakes at play, which could potentially end his multibillion-dollar dream of opening the glittering new casino that now towers over Sydney.
Clean-shaven and fuller-faced, Mr Packer sported a crew cut and wore a black business suit, white shirt and red checked tie for his appearance, which was beamed from a nondescript room on board his $200 million luxury superyacht IJE.
His attire was in contrast to the relaxed tracksuits and bath robes he has previously worn on the high seas, where he is regularly joined by a cast of bikini-clad models and business associates.
His high-tech and luxurious ship, one of the largest privately owned superyachts in the world, has spent the past three weeks cruising around the tropical islands of Bora Bora, French Polynesia and the South Pacific.
But last Tuesday, Mr Packer appeared expressionless, neither happy nor sad, as he offered brief, monotone and perfunctory responses to a variety of questions as the subject matter veered into increasingly sensitive terrain.
Often he would simply answer: “I do not recall”.