NSW government inquiry resumes after pausing due to pandemic

by William Brown Last Updated
Crown?s Victorian royal commission gets underway

A chief legal officer at Crown Resorts said he was unaware of concerns that Macau-based “junket” tour operators were poorly regulated.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Joshua Preston, who is responsible for legal and regulatory compliance at the James Packer-backed casino giant, could not tell a New South Wales government inquiry whether he conducted any sort of review of its junket partnerships when reports of their criminal links emerged in 2014.

The revelations come amid the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority resuming its public hearings into Crown this week, after suspending the probity inquiry.

The inquiry will consider whether Crown should keep the licence for its soon-to-be completed $2.4 billion casino at Barangaroo.

The inquiry was triggered after revelations in July last year that “junket” tour operators Crown worked with to bring high-rollers to its Australian casinos had links to organised crime and money laundering operations.

Counsel assisting the inquiry, Naomi Sharp, on Monday grilled Mr Preston about a full page advertisement that was signed by Crown’s board of directors and placed in some newspapers in response to the expose, which claimed to “set the record straight in face of a deceitful campaign against Crown.”

Crown’s defence included that the Macau-based junket operators it works with were “required to be licensed there and are subject to regulatory oversight and probity checks.”

Asked about a 2016 article in leading industry magazine Gambling Insider questioning Macau’s “superficial” and “wholly inadequate” regulation of junkets, Mr Preston said he was not aware of those perceived shortcomings when he helped put the Crown ad together.

Ms Sharp also quizzed Mr Preston on earlier reports by an ABC program that raised the issue of Crown junket operators having criminal links.

Mr Preston was head of legal services and responsible for compliance at Crown’s Perth casino including overseeing junkets at the time of the 2014 report.

But he said he could not recall if he watched or was made aware of the program or if it triggered any kind of internal review at the Perth or Melbourne casinos.

The report included warnings from the former head of security at the Hong Kong Jockey Club about “individuals associated with Suncity”, which was one of Crown’s most important junket partners and until last year had its own private room at Crown Melbourne.

“Before last year, it wasn’t every day that Crown Resorts was accused of having links with junkets with organised crime was it,” Ms Sharp asked.

“Isn’t this the kind of matter that you would recall, given your responsibilities as the most senior legal officer at Crown Perth at that time?”

“I don’t recall specifically,” Mr Preston responded.

“I may well have been made aware of it but I do not recall specifically.”

The inquiry will resume hearings today.

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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