While the Covid-19 pandemic was already a huge problem in itself, it seems Australia’s main casinos are in for another worrisome round of events. Just earlier this year, internationally renowned Crown Resorts was deemed unfit to hold a New South Wales license in preparation for its $2 billion casino opening in Sydney. The Bergin Inquiry revealed numerous extreme violations that have utterly pushed authorities to dive in and take a deeper look at the whole industry.
Expanded formal investigation underway
Aside from investigating Crown’s Perth and Melbourne casino activities, state regulator Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) has now expanded its probe to include other major operators – the Star Entertainment Group and SkyCity Entertainment Group, and a separate investigation on one of the country’s top lenders, the National Australia Bank (NAB).
With Crown under fire for operations relating to “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”, AUSTRAC is keen on looking into possible breaches of necessary background checks and improper management of customer relations involving the other major casinos. If the investigation does come to show negative findings, Crown’s rival locations may find themselves facing serious fines with a possibility of gaming licenses being in jeopardy.
“The Australian casino sector is at risk of criminal misuse due to the products and services they offer,” noted AUSTRAC CEO Nicole Rose in a local newspaper.
“We have an enforcement investigation underway at Crown casino that demonstrates the seriousness of our concerns. And we also have significant compliance work underway on the casino sector”, Rose added.
An excerpt in BBC also reported that AUSTRAC “works with state and territory regulators and law enforcement partners to actively address the significant risks of money laundering through casinos” and to “support regulation and education of the gambling sector” as well.
On another note, the ongoing crackdown may consequently threaten rival Star Entertainment Group’s AUD 9 billion (~USD 7 billion) proposal to an all-stock buyout of Crown Resorts. Three months after the Bergin Inquiry revealed its verdict, Star shared its interest to acquire the casino giant and potentially create “one of the largest and most attractive integrated resort operators in the Asia Pacific region”.
With gaining the company’s biggest competition being somewhat of an issue, Star CEO Matt Bekier mentioned that the two businesses only slightly overlapped in the city of Sydney once the newest complex is allowed to run its casino games. Bekier stated, “We would position the brands at the ends of the consumer spectrum, rather than letting both brands drift into the centre”. Given Star’s exclusivity on slot gaming and focus on the mass market, the CEO moreover highlighted Crown Sydney’s position as an upmarket participant.
In a separate update, Crown revealed on Monday that it had received legal advice entailing its Melbourne location had breached Victoria’s Casino Control Act back in 2012 to 2016 by taking over AUD 160 million in debit and credit card payments for gaming chips, a practice banned under state law. With new developments continuously rising to the surface, Crown appears to be in for the long haul until its issues are cleared, with the future of the local giant growing dimmer than ever.