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VCGLR Report Warns Crown to Avoid Corruption in Asia Expansion

Sat, Aug 17, 7:57am by Kevin Pitstock

Crown LimitedIn a five-year review of Crown Casino’s operations in Victoria, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation gave Australia’s largest casino company ten recommendations for its future operations. One of these was to remain compliant with anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws while expanding overseas.

Another recommendation called for Crown to accept social responsibility in how it uses customer data. It was thought Crown Melbourne should make better use of its player information to help spot problem gamblers, instead of using that same information to increase profits.

Facial Recognition Tech and Problem Gamblers

At the same time, the VCGLR report suggested Crown Melbourne needed to update its technology. This should be a focus not so much to update security measures, but to bring the casino’s exclusion procedures up-to-date with the Australian public’s current mood about problem gambling.

The review described Crown Melbourne as a world-class casino which welcomes 50,000 visitors a day and brings in $1.8 billion in revenue every year. With such resources at their disposal and so many people to process, the managers of the casino need to update their facial recognition technology not only to find people in the gaming black book, but also find people with known gambling addictions. An important use of this technology, the VCGLR said, was to use it to spot those who had self-excluded themselves from casinos (but presumably had a relapse).

Along with these measures, the watchdog group’s review suggested the casino protect casual gamblers, too. One suggestion was to educate players about rules variations on well-known games like roulette and blackjack, so they would know when a particular table had rules which increased the house edge over what players might expect to find.

Loan Sharking in Casinos

The report warned about the dangers of loan sharks who might target gamblers at the Crown Melbourne. Since 2011, three people at the Crown Casino have been suspected of “loan sharking”, which is defined as the giving high interest loans–in this case to gamblers. Such money loans can be a pathway to organised crime, as people end up owing large sums of money to a loan shark. These people might end up smuggling drugs through an airport or engaging in prostitution to pay back the debts.

Another common practice of organised crime, money laundering, was given attention in the review. The international junket are thought to offer opportunities for money laundering. It was the concerns about the bribery of corrupt officials abroad which received special attention, though.

Anti-Bribery Warnings

The VCGLR report specifically mentioned expansion into the Philippines and Sri Lanka as possible trouble spots. James Packer is working with Chinese billionaire Lawrence Ho and Filipino billionaire Henry Sy to build a billion-dollar casino resort in the Philippines. Meanwhile, Crown Group is building a $350 million hotel resort in Colombo, Sri Lanka, which may or may not include gambling, but definitely includes a 10-year tax holiday.

The report references an investigation into the company’s methods of “managing risk and ensuring compliance with anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws when investing in international markets.” The meaning of this statement became evident later in the VCGLR’s review, when it referenced “countries with public sector governance challenges”.

The members of the government-backed watchdog organisation said they “will be monitoring current and future investments closely, including Melco Crown’s investment in the Philippines and any possible Crown Group investment in Sri Lanka.”

Crown Limited Statement

A public relations representative for Crown Group stated the company was happy with the report, saying Crown was found to be in compliance with state regulations. The spokesmen went on to say the gaming company took the issue of responsible gaming seriously and James Packer’s company will implement, over time, “world-first responsible gaming initiatives”.

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