The third state-based inquiry into Australian casino chain Crown Resorts has been hearing evidence from billionaire stakeholder James Packer on what is claimed were “multiple failings” of corporate governance.

Crown Resorts is one of Australia’s biggest and most well-known casino brands but was cast under the spotlight in 2019 when Nine Network’s Crown Unmasked series put forth allegations of money laundering and criminal involvement operating at its Melbourne and Perth casinos.

The revelations have already led to two inquiries into the business practices behind Crown Resorts, while a third – set up by the Perth Casino Royal Commission (PCRC) earlier this year – is looking into the running of the Perth casino branch.

And the results of this inquiry could have wide-reaching effects not only on Crown Resorts but also Australian gambling legalisation in general.

What’s Happened So Far

The PCRC is looking into whether or not Crown Casino Perth (CCP) should continue to hold a gambling licence, after two previous investigations stopped short of recommending banning the casino in both NSW and Victoria.

The CCP’s initial report found a string of failings at the resort, including alleged money laundering and links to organized crime. It was recommended that a major overhaul of the company’s business practices was needed in order for CCP to be granted another casino licence.

This third investigation was set up on the back of the Crown Unmasked and former Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin’s report for New South Wales that found Crown Resorts “unfit to hold the licence for its new $2.2 billion casino on Sydney Harbour”, state the Sydney Morning Herald.

Weeks after the Bergin report, the state of Victoria launched its own inquiry into Crown’s Melbourne casino and found this October that “as matters stand, Crown Melbourne is not suitable” to hold a casino licence. According to the report, it facilitated and failed to investigate money laundering, didn’t display “candour” to the Bergin Inquiry, and had not the sufficient systems to detect and deter money laundering.

However, Victoria also also refrained from requesting an outright ban, although the company’s CEO did resign.

In June 2021, the PCRC issued its interim report, which did not make good reading for those associated with Crown Resorts.

Money Laundering Findings

The Herald have previously detailed the money laundering findings outlined in the Bergin report, which include:

  • Blue cooler bags of $50 bills being exchanged for chips at Crown Melbourne’s VIP gaming rooms
  • Bank accounts used for money laundering weren’t acted upon
  • Links to Chinese organised crime gangs via “junkets”

James Packer Gives Evidence

We won’t be able to read the full PCRC report until March 2022 and in the meantime the inquiry is collecting further evidence. Over the coming weeks it will interview risk advisors, financial crime officers and other experts to gain a greater understanding of Crown’s dealings in Perth.

Recently Packer himself was put in front of the inquiry and grilled on his knowledge and involvement of the practices at the company. According to the Guardian, Packer “spoke slowly and frequently struggled to recall events while he was chairman of Crown’s West Australian subsidiary, Burswood Limited”. A list of failings was put to the businessman, including the fact he attended no board meetings for four years and neglected to ensure the board had written a charter.

“Was there anyone appointed [to the Burswood board] who had financial crime risks management experience such as anti-money laundering expertise?” asked Patricia Cahill, SC.

“I don’t believe there was,” Packer responded.

Investigators have previously alleged that drug traffickers used the bank accounts of two Crown Resort subsidiaries for money laundering activities. And Packer said the culture slipped since it was named employer of the year by the WA government in 2015.

“So the culture, I believed, was a culture where we were achieving good things,” he said. “I think at some point, the culture slipped.”

Packer also stated that he did not believe the Perth casino was involved in money laundering. The hearings continue.

Is The 2022 Aussie Millions Under Threat?

While all this goes on, one of poker’s biggest tournaments in Australia is yet to be confirmed for 2022. The 2022 Aussie Millions is expected to be held at a Crown casino but these plans could be under threat from the investigations.

There is justifiable concern that is the PCRC review really is damning then the tournament could be pulled or moved to another casino. Thankfully for poker players, the fact the Victoria government pulled short of requesting an outright ban of Crown Resorts – and instead suggested giving the company time to improve its structures – indicates that Perth could follow suit.

However, this year’s Aussie Millions was already cancelled due to coronavirus and we are no closer to knowing if 2022 will get the green light or not.

Joe Ellison

Joseph is a dedicated journalist and horse racing fanatic who has been writing about sports and casinos for over a decade. He has worked with some of the UK's top bookmakers and provides Premier League soccer tips on a regular basis. You'll likely find him watching horse racing or rugby when he isn't writing about sport.

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