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Crown may not use junket services going forward

Thu, Aug 22, 7:49am by Staff Writer

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.”

The group, which operates casinos in Melbourne and Perth are is building another at Sydney’s Barangaroo, on Wednesday reported its full-year profit had fallen 28 per cent.

Net profit after tax was $401.8 million for the 12 months to June 30, compared to $558.9 million a year earlier.

Using the company’s preferred measure of “normalised results”, which excludes the impact of variance in VIP win rates and significant items, profit was down 4.7 per cent and revenue was down 10 per cent.

Crown’s share price has fallen around 10 per cent since the company’s dealings with its junket partners was exposed, and multiple state and federal inquiries have been launched into the casino industry.

Crown has said it would “fully cooperate” with inquiries and has called The Age and SMH’s reporting of the matter “unbalanced and sensationalised”, based on “unsubstantiated allegations, exaggerations, unsupported connections and outright falsehoods.”

60 Minutes Crown story hit and miss

The build up to Channel 9’s Crown Casino story on its 60 Minutes program last Sunday said it would “rock the foundations of Australia”, but many viewers have been left unimpressed.

News.com.au is reporting that the year long investigation looked at tens of thousands of Australia’s biggest casino.

The Sunday night current affairs show claims these emails show Crown’s links to Chinese crime bosses and community party figures, drug syndicates, money laundering and alleged sex trafficking rings.

In a promo released a few days before the show aired, 60 Minutes said the episode would feature “a story so important it can’t be missed”.

From the get go, it was clear that many viewers felt let down – saying they felt the episode had been massively over-hyped.

Others pointed out that ABC’s Four Corners ran a similar story in 2017 called ‘Crown Confidential’, which included allegations that Crown had “developed a business model based on luring rich Chinese, known as VIP high rollers, to its casinos … in a country where gambling and promoting gambling are illegal.”

The Age journalist behind the story, Nick McKenzie, defended the 60 Minutes exclusive, calling on viewers to judge the story, not the promo.


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