Australian casino operator Crown Resorts has weathered extraordinary amounts of speculation into its affairs recently. Unfortunately, the attention has been overwhelmingly negative, mostly consisting of governmental inquiries into alleged criminal behaviour.
Most punters aren’t too fazed by the ethics of casinos, provided it doesn’t affect them directly, but the state and federal governments aren’t as forgiving.
Caught on camera
From the first emergence of a whistle-blower in 2019, Crown Resorts has been plagued by accusations of improper and criminal activities. These include allegations of money laundering backed up by spectacularly damning video evidence.
The video in question is reportedly from the Crown Melbourne’s security footage and was obtained by the anti-gambling legislator, Andrew Wilke. It shows gamblers walking in with cash-filled bags and some are seen to hand over large stacks of $50 and $100 notes at the cashier’s cage.
The whistle-blowers’ identity is still unknown but, in a statement, they offered justification for their actions.
“Anybody can walk in with any amount of money and launder it. Nobody really cares. They get to do what they want.”
They further went on to ask, “If it was legit, why wasn’t it in the bank?”
Accounts created for laundering
The investigation has unearthed two suspicious accounts held at the ANZ and Commonwealth banks that belong to shell companies. Upon further investigation, it was revealed that the accounts, which are in the names of Southbank Investments and Riverbank Investments belong to Crown Resorts.
VIP clients have been depositing large amounts into these accounts before visiting the casino to gamble since 2013. This practice flies in the face of Australian law as high-risk money transfers are meant to be reported to the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre. Crown’s financial team wilfully left these two accounts unsupervised.
A history of bad PR
Former chairman James Packer seemed to display an eerie level of instinct as his departure from the company for mental health reasons came very shortly before all the bad news started for Crown.
Three of Crown Resorts’ most notable PR disasters in the last few years have put the company’s resilience to the test.
Indonesian citizen Joseph Wong Kiia Tai, who was later revealed to be an arms dealer with ties to Liberian autocrat, Chares Taylor, spent $6 million at the Crown Perth and Crown Melbourne from 2004 to 2015. This happened despite him being on a United Nations sanctions list, which was meant to prevent him from travelling.
Crown Resorts’ planned sale of 20% of its holdings to Asian tycoon Lawrence Ho was halted in its tracks when an investigation showed that Ho was a former director for Lanceford Company Ltd. Lanceford, previously headed by the late billionaire and triad-connected Stanley Ho, is one of 59 entities that Crown was prohibited from doing business with.
Allegations of pokie machine tampering were brought forward by whistle-blowers at Crown Melbourne. Management had told staff to disable lower bet provisions and enable prohibited autoplay. This would have ultimately resulted in higher gambling losses. The disciplinary action to be taken against Crown, in this case, is being handled by The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation.
A murky future
The number and severity of accusations that Crown Resorts is facing are unprecedented in the industry and there is speculation that the company could be facing more than just the usual fines and reprimands.
The negative attention has begun to jeopardise the future of some ongoing projects, such as Crown’s $2-billion casino project in New South Wales, where regulators have started to back off from their initial enthusiasm, leaving the entire project in peril.