Crown Resorts has been deemed unsuitable to operate a new Sydney casino in Barangaroo after a month-long public investigation that uncovered money laundering allegations

A final report on the Crown probe, commissioned by NSW’s Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA), was filed in state assembly this afternoon

In it, Commissioner Patricia Bergin – a former chief judge at NSW’s Supreme Court – said the company would need to make profound cultural changes if it was to be considered a suitable operator in the future

It effectively means the casino component of Crown’s new $ 22 billion skyscraper on Sydney Harbor will almost certainly be prevented from opening without any changes by Crown However, Commissioner Bergin’s recommendations have yet to be formally adopted by ILGA

In a statement, Crown said it was reviewing the findings of the report and would work with ILGA and the state government “on the findings and recommendations”

The report comes after a year-long investigation by the Gambling Authority into systemic problems at Crown’s existing Melbourne and Perth casinos to see if the company was able to hold the gambling license for the new facility

The hearings were reported on incidents of money laundering and links to international criminal syndicates through Crown’s relationship with private junket operators sourcing the company’s VIP customers from overseas

The investigation also looked into whether Crown violated any of its regulatory agreements when former CEO James Packer sold a portion of its shares to Hong Kong-based gaming giant Melco Resorts

It also looked into Mr. Packer’s stake in the company after stepping down from his top job

It was reported that his company, Consolidated Press Holdings, had been kept regularly informed of Crown affairs and that Mr. Packer continued to act as “de facto director” after his departure

Allegations of intra-casino crime were first made public in 2014 through an ABC Four Corners investigation and five years later through Fairfax investigations

“One of the troubles for Crown was its unwarranted self-belief and unwillingness to entertain the prospect of a force in the media allegations,” the report reads

The “core issues” that made Crown unsuitable, according to the report, were the operator’s “poor governance” and “poor risk management structures”

The Commissioner noted that the operator has recognized the need for cultural change and identified issues that require “urgent attention and rectification”

Damned evidence was presented in public investigation into Crown’s operations. Is this a new era of accountability for the gambling sector?

The report made 19 recommendations, including several amendments to the Casino Control Act specifically targeting money laundering activities that were uncovered during the investigation

One of the key recommendations was the establishment of the Independent Casino Commission (ICC) to act as an independent regulator with the powers of a permanent Royal Commission to regulate the gambling sector

Other key suggestions for the report included banning NSW casino operators from dealing with junket operators, people bringing high rollers or VIPs from overseas

NSW Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello said the state government welcomed the report but would “very carefully” examine the recommendations before giving a formal response

NSW Independent MP Justin Field said Bergin report showed that Crown’s Barangaroo license should be “torn apart”

“What is absolutely clear is that there is no way this casino is allowed to open in February,” said Field

The results have a significant impact on Crown’s flagship Melbourne casino – the company is the only licensed company in Victoria

For years, the & Liquor Regulation of the Victorian Commission for Gambling has been criticized for not pursuing complaints against Crown in Melbourne

The Victorian government said it would review the results of the Bergin investigation in the coming days

It has already preferred the five-year review of the casino license and is appointing an independent commissioner to oversee the investigation

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Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-09/crown-found-not-suitable-to-hold-sydney-barangaroo-licence/13134756