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Crown to have their say at inquiries

Mon, Sep 16, 4:41pm by Staff Writer

Crown Resorts will use a raft of state and federal inquiries into the casino giant’s dealings with suspected Chinese criminals as a “forum to provide our perspective”.

Crown, the nation’s biggest casino operator, is facing a slew of investigations from regulators and law enforcement following revelations by The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes that it partnered with companies backed by triad societies implicated in drug running, money laundering and human trafficking in order to attract wealthy Chinese gamblers.

Crown executive chairman John Alexander, who has previously defended the company’s due diligence and oversight of its business partners, told shareholders on Friday that Crown ran a compliant business with “zero tolerance for criminal elements.”

He described the reports as sensationalist, adding it came as “no surprise” that regulators and other agencies launched inquiries as a result.

“We view these regulatory inquiries as a forum to provide our perspective and look forward to cooperating through the process, as we have always done,” Mr Alexander said in Crown’s 2019 annual report.

The New South Wales gaming watchdog is soon to begin an independent examination of Crown’s ties to so-called “junkets”, which manage high roller clients, particularly out of China.

The inquiry will be headed by a former Supreme Court judge, with powers similar to a royal commission and hearings to be held in public.

As part of the inquiry, the state’s Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority will weigh whether Crown should be permitted to keep its licence for its $2.2 billion VIP casino complex being built in Sydney’s harbourside, to be completed in 2021.

Victoria’s gaming regulator is also conducting an urgent investigation into the revelations, while the Morrison government has ordered an inquiry into the conduct of Commonwealth public servants amid claims Crown staff were instructed to contact certain visa offices known to have softer vetting procedures in order to fast-track applications for Chinese high-roller visitors.

Concerns surrounding the infiltration of organised crime in Australian casinos are the subject of an investigation by Australia’s peak criminal intelligence agency, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.

No bonuses for top Crown executives

The annual report, released on Friday also reveals Crown’s four top executives were denied $3.3 million on short-term bonuses last year after the company missed its earnings targets.

Mr Alexander, whose base salary was $3.5 million, missed out on a possible $500,000 short-term incentive.

Chief financial officer Ken Barton, whose base salary was $2.1 million, missed out on a $750,000 bonus.

“While a number of the non-financial targets were met, on account of the fact Crown did not achieve its financial objectives, the executive chairman recommended to the nomination and remuneration committee that no short-term incentive bonuses be awarded in respect of the 2019 financial year,” the annual report said.

Sydney council not happy with Crown’s apartment increase

Sydney City Council has labeled plans by Crown Casino to increase the number of apartments at its Barangaroo site on Sydney’s foreshore as “outrageous”.

The ABC reported in June that Crown Casino submitted an application to increase the number of luxury apartments in the tower, known as 1 Barangaroo, from 66 to 87, with decreased visitor spaces to allow for more valet parking.

The application said the increase is due to “market feedback”.

The apartments are in Crown’s Barangaroo skyscraper, which is due to be completed in 2021 and will also include a luxury casino and hotel.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the Council had no authority over Barangaroo developments, and any approved increase would be another erosion in public trust for the site.

According to the report, Crown’s senior executives met a number of non-financial performance metrics – which appeared to include the “governance, risk and compliance” category – for their engagement with governments and regulators and management of Crown’s corporate responsibility initiatives.

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