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Crown deemed unsuitable for NSW licence

Crown Barangaroo looms over the harbour as an investigation looms over the Crown. Photo: Allison Hore

By ALLISON HORE

Following a months-long public inquiry, Crown Resorts has been deemed unsuitable to operate a casino in its new Barangaroo location.

The damning final report from the 18-month inquiry, written up by Commissioner Patricia Bergin, was tabled to NSW Parliament this afternoon. It said if the company wished to operate a casino in NSW in the future it would need to make sweeping cultural changes.

The gaming licence for Crown’s Barangaroo location was granted in 2014 to Crown Sydney Gaming, a subsidiary of Crown Resorts Limited. Controversial billionaire James Packer is a majority shareholder in the company.

However, an inquiry into the suitability of the licence was launched last year following a series of reports by The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and 60 Minutes. The reports exposed Crown’s junket partners, its failure to stop money laundering at its Perth and Melbourne casinos and how the casino group put its staff at risk of arrest in China.

During the course of the hearings, the inquiry heard allegations Crown encouraged staff to continue to work in China despite warnings from Beijing that it was cracking down on foreign casino agents. In 2016, sixteen Crown staff were jailed for breaching anti-gambling laws.

Crown also conceded accounts it had set up for use by customers (Riverbank and Southbank) could have been used for money laundering. Following this admission Crown Barangaroo’s planned December opening was blocked by the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA). 

“It’s come at the 11th hour – literally. That gives us great concern because we’re talking about money laundering,” Mr. Crawford said.

“We’re talking about potential drugs, child sexual exploitation, people trafficking and financing terrorism … you can see why we have concern.”

The report tabled today leaves the future of the $2.2 billion Casino even more in the dark. From all the information which arose throughout the hearings, commissioner Bergin found that Crown Resorts Limited was not a “suitable person” to hold the licence nor a suitable person to be a “close associate” to the licensee. 

Commissioner Bergin’s recommendation the licence is unsuitable has not yet been signed off on by ILGA. And the report and its findings are not the end of the road for the Barangaroo Casino. If the company can perform a “conversion to suitability” they may be granted a license again in the future.

“The conversion to suitability will require a restructure of the Crown Board and the Board of the Licensee [Crown Sydney Gaming],” explained commissioner Bergin. 

“Some observers may expect the Authority to require the purging of the whole Crown Board before it would be in a position to regard Crown as a “suitable” person under the Casino Control Act.”

In addition to the casino floors whose future is now uncertain, the 75 storey Barangaroo building includes a 6-star hotel with 350 hotel rooms and suites, restaurants, bars and retail outlets.

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