Crown Resorts is doubling down on its commitment to parting ways with controversial VIP junket groups at its three integrated resort casino properties in Australia.
Crown disclosed today to investors that it’s permanently disassociating from unlicensed gaming promoters. That comes nearly two months after the Australian casino operator announced it was suspending its dealings with junket groups until at least January 1, 2021,
The Board has determined that Crown will permanently cease dealing with all junket operators, subject to consultation with gaming regulators in Victoria, Western Australia, and New South Wales,” a company statement explained. “Crown will only recommence dealing with a junket operator if that junket operator is licensed or otherwise approved or sanctioned by all gaming regulators in the States in which Crown operates.”
Crown Resorts is amid a corporate shakeup in the wake of its Sydney casino license being in jeopardy in New South Wales (NSW). Former Executive Chairman John Alexander was replaced with Chairwoman Helen Coonan, and Deputy Chairman John Horvath is resigning from the Crown board.
The New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) is deliberating whether to revoke Crow Resorts’ gaming license for its soon-to-be finished AUD$2.2 billion (US$1.6 billion) Crown Sydney complex. The NSW panel has received testimony regarding the casino company’s failure to combat money laundering at its casinos in Melbourne and Perth, and alleged links to organized crime.
Coonan herself admitted under oath to the ILGA that prior to her chairwomanship, which began in January of 2020 after being a board director for a decade, the company’s security failures essentially “enabled” money laundering.
Crown had long worked with Suncity, one of Asia’s leading VIP junket groups. Suncity operated a private gaming room at Crown Melbourne until late 2019, when reports surfaced regarding Suncity billionaire owner Alvin Chau’s alleged links to criminal organizations, including Chinese triads.
“I don’t think it was deliberately turning a blind eye,” Coonan told the ILGA last month. “It may have been ineptitude or a lack of attention.”
Under Coonan’s board leadership, Crown is now telling authorities that junkets will not be welcome inside the firm’s three casino resorts.
Counsel assisting the ILGA probe have recommended to the state agency to deem Crown Resorts unsuitable to hold a casino license in NSW. Attorneys said in their final submission that Crown founder James Packer’s considerable influence on the company through his holdings firm Consolidated Press has resulted in the casino operator failing to adhere to gaming regulations.
ILGA chair Patricia Bergin, a former NSW supreme court judge, will make the final determination. Her verdict is expected in February.
Packer is no longer involved in day-to-day operations of Crown, but retains a 36 percent ownership position. The Sydney casino project was an aspiration of the late Kerry Packer, James’ father, who built the family fortune.
The late Packer, who died in 2005, amassed his wealth in media, but had long been interested in the gaming industry. He dreamt of building a casino in his native Sydney. His only son founded Crown Resorts two years after his death.