Former Crown Resorts CEO front NSW inquiry

by Ethan Anderson Last Updated
Journalist wins award for breaking Crown Resorts junket story

The New South Wales inquiry Crown Resorts’ suitability to hold a casino licence in the state has heard from the former chief executive of Crown Resorts Rowan Craigie.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Mr Craigie told the hearing that the casino group did not have a “cosy” relationship with consulate officials in China and that it was for visa officials to ultimately decide who could travel to its Australian casinos.

On Friday, the inquiry heard Crown’s China-based staff would indicate one of three levels of “support” when lodging applications for its patrons under a unique visa fast-tracking scheme.

When Crown could not vouch for a Chinese high-roller, the forms it used from around 2011 advised the consulates to “process as normal” and grant a visa “at the consulate’s discretion only.”

Mr Craigie left Crown in 2017 and rejected the suggestion from counsel assisting the inquiry Scott Aspinall that this showed Crown expected the visa to be processed based on Crown’s recommendation.

Instead, Mr Craigie said it was part of a checklist designed to improve the standard of Crown’s visa applications, after officials raised a high level of fraud in 2010, with one in every 10 of Crown’s visas being rejected.

Earlier in the day, the inquiry heard Crown employees prepared a letter to support a visa application for a wealthy Chinese businessman in 2013, despite knowing he had been jailed for two years for insider trading.

The scheme to fast-track visas for Chinese high rollers, set up under the Howard government in 2003, was disbanded by the Department of Home Affairs in 2016 after 19 Crown employees were arrested in China for breaching local anti-gambling laws.

Reports by Fairfax reveal that Crown helped obtain visas for associates of one of the most important junket operators, the international criminal fugitive Tom Zhou.

Mr Craigie told the inquiry that he was not aware that Crown’s VIP team opened an office near the Australian consulate in Guangzhou and set up a separate visa processing business registered in an employee’s name, which he said was “completely inappropriate.”

“The information flow up to the senior levels of the company from the people in China was defective,” he said.

Mr Craigie told the inquiry, which will consider whether or not Crown will keep its licence for its $2.2 billion casino at Barangaroo, that casinos, regulators and law enforcement could only work to lower the success rate of criminals who attempt to infiltrate casinos rather than stop it completely.

“People will attempt to cheat at casinos, people will attempt to money launder at casinos, everyone recognises that,” Mr Craigie said.

“No one is under any illusion that casinos are not the target for criminal activity, that’s been the history of the industry. The question is, do you have the right steps in place to lower the risk? But you will never eliminate it.”

The hearings are set to continue this week.

Crown Sydney project on track despite coronavirus pandemic

The growing demand for casino gaming options in Australia is being linked with the construction of luxury integrated resorts.

So Much Poker reported in June that Sydney’s second casino is set to open this year.

The $2.2 billion project will inevitably change the state of Australia’s gambling operations.

Crown’s arrival means there is a rival to Star Sydney, with the newest waterfront establishment is also designed to frame the views of Sydney Harbour’s icons standing at a 275-metre-high.

Crown Sydney is located in the stylish Barangaroo district.

The development is built to “redefine luxury as the newest sanctuary in the city” and become a pinnacle of modern design”, Crown said.

Crown Sydney will feature a 5-star hotel hosting a total of 349 guest rooms and suites along with its signature restaurants and bars, luxury retail outlets and lavish pool and spa facilities.

Premium gaming areas set to have around 120 gaming tables when it opens later this year and VIP gaming facilities will also be available in Crown’s members-only casino.

Bets of between $20 and $30 will be the standard minimum which casino industry experts note is on-par with general recreational gambling.

The complex also boasts of high class apartments located on the upper floors of the building.

Homeowners at Crown Residences Barangaroo are set to move in during the first half of 2021.

The fascinating tower, which can be seen all across the city, is fitted to have an astonishing 50 different types of marble and stone used throughout the building, 50 custom made crystal light installations and a multitude of greenery, altogether bringing indulgence and sophistication for its clientele.

1,800 pieces of artwork, the majority of which are made by local artists will also be showcased throughout the development, adding great design to an already captivating façade.

Lendlease Group chief executive and managing director Steve McCann said that when complete, Barangaroo will be transformed from a disused industrial site to a world-class urbanisation district.

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