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Crown Resorts Suitability Probe for Victoria License Kicks off in Melbourne

Crown Resort’s retention of its gaming license for its flagship Melbourne property could rely on the effectiveness of a recently implemented reform program.

Former judge Ray Finkelstein will ultimately decide whether Crown can keep its license for the Crown Melbourne Casino. (Image: Daily Advent)

That’s according to former judge Ray Finkelstein, who is chairing the state of Victoria’s licensing suitability inquiry into Crown’s operations, which kicked off in Melbourne Wednesday.

The inquiry was triggered by a similar investigation in New South Wales, which ultimately decided the casino giant was unfit to hold a license in the state. Crown has recently completed construction of a $1.7 billion casino in the Sydney, the NSW capital.

Relations with Triads

At the end of the NSW examination, a 700-plus page report compiled by former NSW Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin concluded Crown had “poor corporate governance, deficient risk-management structures and processes, and a poor corporate culture.”

Bergin also found the company had been “facilitating money laundering, exposing staff to the risk of detention in a foreign jurisdiction, and pursuing commercial relationships with individuals with connections to Triads and organized crime groups.”

Bergin’s report triggered mass resignations in the board room.

Bergin Verdict Accepted

Finkelstein told the hearing Wednesday that he had written to Crown asking whether it accepted the damning verdict of the NSW inquiry.

Crown had written back to say it accepted it was not suitable to operate the Sydney casino. But it disputed “the willfulness or deliberateness of the conduct concerned.” It was a response Finkelstein called “somewhat equivocal.”

Finkelstein said Crown pointed to its reform program as evidence that it deserved to keep its license in Victoria. The program will no doubt be scrutinized inside out in the coming weeks.

As well as looking into past transgressions, which have been covered in the NSW investigation, Finkelstein’s inquiry will also examine whether money laundering still exists at the Crown Melbourne. It will also look at how the company has dealt with problem gambling in the past and continues to deal with it today.

Sam Gor Syndicate

Among the Bergin inquiry’s findings was that two accounts controlled by Crown Resorts for high roller deposits had been used by criminal gangs to launder the proceeds of their criminal operations at Crown Melbourne.

These included members of triad super-syndicate, the Company, also known as the Sam Gor syndicate. The group is believed to have been responsible for up to 70 percent of all drugs trafficked into Australia over the past 20 years.

On Wednesday, Finkelstein said he had also written to Crown Resorts to ask whether the operator had ever broken any laws in Victoria. He is currently awaiting a response.

Crown recently received a $6.2 billion takeover from private equity giant Blackstone. A change of ownership – and divestment of Crown founder James Packer, who was criticized in the Bergin report – could go some way towards wiping the slate clean with Australia’s licensing authorities.

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