In Australia and the official inquiry looking into the license suitability of casino operator Crown Resorts Limited has reportedly returned with a damning verdict that could well see the firm forced into making sweeping changes to its leadership and the way it is run.
According to a report from The Guardian newspaper, the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority investigation was conducted by former New South Wales Supreme Court Judge Patricia Bergin and found that the Melbourne-headquartered company was currently not fit to hold a gambling license for its Crown Sydney development. This $1.5 billion venue purportedly opened in the harborside Barangaroo district of Australia’s largest city late last year although missing a VIP-facing casino that was due to feature a selection of almost 500 gaming tables.
Should it ever hope to bring a lucrative gambling option to this New South Wales venue and the newspaper reported that Crown Resorts Limited could now be required to implement a series of reforms recommended by Bergin. These purportedly include that the company launch an enhanced set of controls to prevent money laundering and potentially sack Chief Executive Officer Ken Barton alongside non-executive directors Andrew Demetriou and Michael Johnston.
Although Bergin reportedly detailed that it will now be down to the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority to suggest the specifics of any such changes, she moreover described the casino firm’s majority shareholder, James Packer (pictured) as ‘deeply flawed’ due to the way he had dealt with allegations concerning Lawrence Ho Yau Lung. This latter individual had been set to buy an almost 20% stake in Crown Resorts Limited almost two years ago even though his father, the now-deceased Stanley Ho Hung Sun, was prohibited from entering Australia due to concerns that he had built his expansive Macau gambling empire through links with organized crime groups.
Reportedly read a statement from Bergin…
“The New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority would need to be assured and be confident that there are no further arrangements that would facilitate a return to what was clearly a dysfunctional environment. It is suggested that in the circumstances of the findings against Mr Barton, Mr Johnston and Mr Demetriou, the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority would be justified in entertaining very serious doubts that Crown Resorts Limited could be converted into a suitable person under the Casino Control Act whilst they remain as directors.”
The Guardian reported that Bergin furthermore suggested that Crown Resorts Limited be compelled to provide the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority with a detailed written remediation action plan as well as evidence of any undertakings it subsequently takes with regards to governance, independent review and accountability matters.
Bergin’s statement reportedly read…
“There is no doubt that some of the evidence in which the very serious problems were exposed came as a great surprise to the directors of Crown Resorts Limited. There is also no doubt that some, but certainly not others, had their confidence dented by this exposure.”
The newspaper reported that Bergin additionally asserted that between 2014 and 2019 Crown Resorts Limited had ‘facilitated money laundering’ via bank accounts held by two subsidiaries ‘unchecked and unchanged in the face of warnings from its bankers’. She proclaimed that this ‘stark reality’ of impropriety had also encompassed deals the casino operator inked or continued to honor ‘with junket operators who had links to Triads and other organized crime groups.’
Reportedly read the statement from Bergin…
“These are not historical deficiencies. They are very clear and present problems.”
Philip Crawford leads the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority and he reportedly told The Guardian that his organization is set to consider Bergin’s recommendations at a special Friday board meeting and via its next monthly gathering, which is scheduled for February 17. He purportedly divulged that ‘it will take time for [us] to give it proper consideration before determining the most appropriate course of action’ and that it would be inappropriate to officially comment ‘until this process is completed’.
For its part and Crown Resorts Limited, which is likewise responsible for Western Australia’s Crown Perth facility in addition to the giant Crown Melbourne development in Victoria, reportedly divulged that it is ‘currently considering the inquiry report.’ The Sydney-listed firm has since purportedly placed a hold on its shares and pronounced that it was now willing to work with the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority ‘in relation to the findings and recommendations of the inquiry.’