Australian casino operator Crown Resorts Ltd said in a Friday filing that it had suspended “all activity” with external gaming-junket partners, with effect until June 30, 2021. The company told the Australian bourse that the move was part of its review on “compliance and governance processes”. Crown Resorts’ flagship property, Crown Melbourne in Victoria, is currently closed, due to pandemic countermeasures in that state.
The announcement on the pause regarding junkets follows examination during a public inquiry ordered by an Australian state casino regulator – the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) – of the relationship between Crown Resorts and junkets bringing in players from overseas, and how much oversight the casino firm was exercising over that business segment.
The inquiry has been considering Crown Resorts’ suitability for a casino licence at a new property it has been developing at Barangaroo in the state capital, Sydney.
An original focus had been the suitability of Macau operator Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd, led by Lawrence Ho Yau Lung – a son of the late Macau former monopolist Stanley Ho Hung Sun – as an investor in Crown Resorts. The focus shifted somewhat, after Melco Resorts sold off its interests in the Australian firm.
The inquiry has nonetheless covered topics including whether Crown Resorts might have facilitated money laundering; might have breached gambling laws; or might have partnered with junkets that had links to criminal activities.
At Thursday’s session of the probe, Naomi Sharp, a lawyer assisting the inquiry, had questioned what practical impact a suspension of Crown Resorts’ ties with outside junkets would have, while Australia’s borders are effectively closed to inbound travellers from overseas.
“… with [Crown] Melbourne closed, which is our main casino, there’s been no prospect of any significant junket activity,” Crown Resorts’ chief executive Ken Barton stated during the Thursday session.
Mr Barton also told the inquiry that his company was implementing recommendations made by professional services firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd. Crown Resorts had asked the consultant to prepare a report on an approval process for its external junkets.
“…the AML [anti-money laundering] team or the financial crimes team will be the predominant source of review of the approval or continuation of a relationship with a junket. I will be having oversight, but… the financial crimes team reports through to the board,” Mr Barton stated.
“Ultimately, it will be the head of financial crimes who will decide around whether we commence or continue a relationship with a junket,” he added.
In the Friday filing, Crown Resorts said it had started a search process to hire someone for the newly-created role of “head of compliance and financial crimes”.
The casino operator also mentioned in the filing, its plan to launch in stages the Crown Sydney Hotel Resort – as the firm referred to the Barangaroo scheme – starting “on or around” December 14. The company intended to have 129 table games and 66 electronic table-game terminals distributed across two gaming rooms within the podium at the new property; and an additional 30 table games in about 12 private gaming salons.
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”“The Royal Commission finds Crown is unsuitable to hold a casino licence [in Melbourne] on the basis that it has engaged in conduct that is ‘illegal, dishonest, unethical and exploitative'”
Report from the Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and Licence
State of Victoria, Australia