In Australia and the gaming regulator for New South Wales has reportedly launched the first of five public hearings into allegations that local casino operator Crown Resorts Limited may have utilized unscrupulous agents in order to attract wealthy Chinese gamblers to its venues.
According to a Saturday report from the Bloomberg news service, the investigation by the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority is looking into claims that the Melbourne-headquartered operator had used individuals with links to human traffickers, drug gangs and money launderers so as to entice foreign patrons to visit its venues.
The news service reported that the probe is being led by former New South Wales Supreme Court Judge Patricia Bergin and could result in Crown Resorts Limited losing the operating license for its coming Crown Sydney facility. This $1.5 billion property is located in the harborside Barangaroo district of central Sydney and is purportedly set to begin welcoming gamblers from later in the year following some 50 months of construction.
Bloomberg reported that the enquiry could moreover ask to hear testimony from the largest investor in Crown Resorts Limited, billionaire Australian businessman James Packer (pictured), as well as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for Asian casino giant Melco Resorts and Entertainment Limited, Lawrence Ho Yau Lung. It explained that this latter firm had been due to acquire an almost 20% shareholding in its smaller counterpart but pulled out of the arrangement late last month to leave it with only a 9.9% stake.
Crown Resorts Limited is moreover responsible for the Crown Perth venue in Western Australia as well as Victoria’s giant Crown Melbourne with Bloomberg reporting that the investigation is to furthermore look into the relationship between Ho and his father, 98-year-old Macau casino magnate Stanley Ho Hung Sun. The elder Ho has previously purportedly been prohibited from investing in casinos in Australia amid allegations, which he has continually denied, that he had built his gambling empire through links with organized crime groups.
The news service reported that the examination from the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority may additionally choose to review the state’s gambling regulations and legislation as well as the vulnerability of local casinos to money laundering.
In advance of today’s first hearing and Bloomberg reported that Crown Resorts Limited has tasked new Non-Executive Chairman Helen Coonan to help it improve its corporate governance functions. The 72-year-old former Senator has purportedly replaced the firm’s previous Executive Chairman, John Alexander, and is now to be joined in a rejigged boardroom by a new Chief Executive Officer in Ken Barton.