Casino Operator SkyCity is Latest Target for Australia Watchdogs

Posted on: July 1, 2022, 09:20h. 

Last updated on: July 1, 2022, 01:57h.

With Crown Resorts and Star Entertainment already in trouble for violating gambling and financial regulations in Australia, it isn’t surprising that other operators would run into trouble. New Zealand-based SkyCity Entertainment Group is the latest target, with South Australia (SA) investigating its Adelaide Casino.

Adelaide Casino entrance at night
Adelaide Casino entrance at night. The SkyCity Entertainment Group property is going to face an inquiry in the Australian state of South Australia. (Image: Dreamstime)

While Crown and Star faced royal commissions in several Australian states, SkyCity is currently only looking at an independent review. This is less extensive and doesn’t dissect the target as much. However, it can still lead to fines and sanctions.

The review follows an investigation the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (AUSTRAC) began last year. That investigation accused the casino operator of facilitating money laundering in manners similar to those that Crown and Star employed.

A Broken Industry

If the casino drama in Australia had focused on just Crown initially, there would have been justification for deeming it an isolated, but still severe, breach of policy. Instead, adding Star and SkyCity to the list paints a grimmer picture of corruption across virtually all levels of Australia’s casino industry.

To determine how bad SkyCity may have acted, SA has appointed retired Supreme Court judge and former royal commissioner Brian Martin AO QC to lead the inquiry. The hearing comes on the order of SA’s Commissioner For Consumer and Business Affairs, Dini Soulio.

A number of the matters raised to date extend beyond any one organisation and point instead to broader systemic issues within the casino industry,” said South Australia Commissioner For Consumer and Business Affairs Dini Soulio.

The objective of the inquiry is to determine if SkyCity is suitable to hold a casino license in SA. Crown lost its license in New South Wales for two years for not being suitable. It is on probation in Victoria and Western Australia. Star’s investigation won’t conclude until August at the earliest.

Should SA determine that SkyCity is not worthy, it can follow a similar course of action as the other states. However, according to the government’s announcements, the inquiry won’t wrap up until next February.

In addition, it’s possible SkyCity faces issues elsewhere. The Adelaide casino is the only one the company has in Australia. But New Zealand authorities could decide to launch their own investigation. There, the company operates five casinos and other hospitality properties.

AUSTRAC Not Done with SkyCity

In July of last year, AUSTRAC announced that SkyCity’s Adelaide casino, as well as Crown and Star, had violated several regulations. It determined that the properties bypassed regulations associated with high-risk, politically exposed customers. In particular, they facilitated money-laundering activity both directly and indirectly.

In the case of SkyCity, AUSTRAC began investigating the company in 2019. The violations occurred during two periods, July 2015 to July 2016, and July 2018 until June 2019. Following last year’s announcement, AUSTRACT’s Enforcement Team took over to determine what would happen next.

Every South Australian should be deeply concerned by the reasons given for the independent investigation and Mr Soulio’s concerns,” said MP Connie Bonaros.

After the news broke last year, two SA members of parliament launched an effort to call for a royal commission. However, no further action was initiated until now.

At one point, as Crown was faltering, SkyCity was a potential candidate for a casino license in New South Wales. With all that was going on, the idea quickly fizzled out.