Crown Resorts–Australia’s largest gaming and entertainment group, founded by controversial billionaire James Packer—has been found guilty of serious money-laundering and integrity breaches for the third time.
That’s the ruling of a Royal Commission.
But, once again, the Ozzie gambling behemoth has managed to escape closure and has retained its operating licence.
A Royal Commission, headed by Supreme Court justices Neville Owen and Lindy Jenkins and Western Australia Auditor General Colin Murphy, has ruled that Crown was and is “unsuitable” to run its eponymous casino in Perth.
Yet–in news that must have come as a relief for the gaming resort’s 5,000 workers—Crown has not been stripped of its operating licence.
Instead, it’s been given two-years to clean up its act under independent monitoring.
In a damning conclusion the commission ruled that Crown and its subsidiaries facilitated money laundering at the casino by encouraging junkets organised by far eastern criminal gangs.
It failed to minimise gambling-related harm.
And it was not “open and accountable in its communications with the state regulator”.
The report was also highly critical of Western Australia’s Gaming and Wagering Commission and the state’s Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries.
An independent monitor has now been tasked to oversee the gambling clean-up.
The commission’s findings at Crown’s Perth casino follows similar investigations–the Bergin Report in New South Wales and the Victoria Royal Commission Report–at the company’s casinos in Sydney and Melbourne.
Western Australia’s Racing and Gaming Minister Tony Buti has now pledged to overhaul the state’s casino laws.
“It is clear that over decades, standards have eroded, integrity has been lost and the transparency of Western Australia’s casino operator has diminished,” conceded Buti.
“In many cases, Crown has demonstrated poor corporate citizenship.
“It is a privilege to hold a gambling licence in Western Australia and the royal commission has shown that Crown has, at times, abused that privilege. Crown needs to do better but the state’s regulator also needs to do better.”
David Brown, General Manager of Cage and Account, at the Perth Crown casino told the inquiry: “There were transactions occurring in 2013 and 2014 that were suspicious and [they] should have been reported to money-laundering authority, AUSTRAC.
Meantime, Crown Chief Executive Steve McCann affirmed the company would work with the state government to implement the recommendations and claimed his company had undergone significant transformation.
He said: “This includes investment in people, systems, processes, culture and a sharp focus on responsible gaming and the prevention of financial crime.
“Crown remains committed to continuous improvement across all facets of the business and is prioritising the delivery of safe and responsible gaming across all of our resorts, including Crown Perth.”
Amid the firestorm of censure, private equity giant Blackstone is now poised to snap-up the Australian casino giant for AUD$8.9 billion (£5.05bn/US$6.64bn/€5.98bn).
Not a bad price for damaged goods.