After a lengthy government inquiry into Crown Resorts and its worthiness to hold a gaming license, the proposed Crown Sydney casino will not open in December as previously planned.
Gaming License Questioned
In an official inquiry which began in early 2020, Crown Resorts has come under fire for questionable business practices. Crown faces allegations of money laundering and ties to organized crime via its VIP junket tour connections.
The VIP junket giant Suncity operated a high roller tour cash desk within Crown Melbourne. The VIP tours target high rollers from China for international gaming tourism. However, the large amounts of cash moving around the casino raised alarm bells, especially since nobody seemed to be counting the cash.
Concerns over money laundering and Chinese organized crime triads loomed large and plunged the Crown into a year-long investigation. Separate allegations of drug trafficking and abuse of sex workers emerged, throwing more scandal into the limelight.
The inquiry was postponed for several months due to the coronavirus, but now Australian gaming authorities have put a hold on Crown’s plans to open a Sydney casino this year. The final decision will be made by February 2021.
Too Little Too Late
Months after the inquiry began, Crown officially cut ties to junket tour operators and agreed not to allow them casino access. However, gaming authorities said the attempt to appease them was too little, too late.
The chair of the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority, Philip Crawford, criticized the late admission of Crown’s culpability in the case:
“I’ve only read a few pages, but it looks like money laundering has occurred through those accounts,” Crawford said. “It came at the 11th hour; I don’t think Bergin or counsel assisting were aware of it and that gives us great concern because we are talking about money laundering. What does that mean? It means dealing with the proceeds of crime in an inappropriate way. To put a bit of narrative around the proceeds of crime, you are talking drugs, child sexual exploitation, people trafficking and the financing of terrorism. So you put the narrative around that you can see why we are concerned.”
Former Crown head James Packer came under fire during the investigation. The majority shareholder admitted to the possibility of money laundering but distanced himself by claiming that he could not remember the details due to his battle with bipolar disorder.
Packer has also been accused of other infractions, including the illegal sale of Crown shares to Macau casino tycoon Lawrence Ho, and sending threatening emails to an investor.
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