Crown to ban junkets as it bids to retain casino license

By Charlotte Lee Updated
Merger of Crown and Star would be subject to ACCC inquiry 

Crown Resorts is pulling out all the stops in a bid to retain its casino licence for its to-be-opened $2.2 billion Barangaroo casino.

The Standard reports that Crown said it is willing to stop dealing with all junket operators if it means keeping its casino licence.

“Crown will permanently cease dealing with all junket operators, subject to consultation with gaming regulators in Victoria, Western Australia and New South Wales,” the company said in a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange on Tuesday.

Crown said it would only recommence dealing with a junket operator if it was licensed or otherwise approved or sanctioned by all gaming regulators in states where the company operates.

It also said consultations had begun with gaming regulators in Victoria, Western Australia and NSW.

Media reports in 2019 alleged Crown’s casino had been used for money laundering and that junket tour operators Crown had relationships with had links to organised crime.

After months of damning testimony, the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority’s inquiry into Crown’s suitability to hold its licence is in its final week of hearings.

Crown Resorts lawyer Perry Herzfeld on Tuesday said the company’s suspension of all dealings with junket operators should not be treated as an admission that its due diligence processes with regard to junkets were “not robust”.

“We accept they had shortcoming, but we don’t accept the characterisation that they were not robust,” he said.

“A system can be described as robust even though an error has occurred.”

Mr Herzfield said the suspension decision occurred in the context of the inquiry where “it was plain that serious allegations were being made by counsel assisting” and it was likely higher standards would not be applied.

“Suspension was a prudent step in order to review all of the junket relationships and consider whether to continue dealing with junkets,” he said.

Counsel assisting the inquiry had previously suggested Crown did not apply high enough probity standards when evaluating its business partners.

The inquiry was partly brought about because of an agreement by James Packer’s private company to sell 19.99 per cent of Crown stock to Melco Resorts, which is owned by businessman Lawrence Ho.

The regulator had banned Crown from letting Mr Ho’s father, Stanley, acquire an interest because of his underworld links.

Crown’s lawyers argued that its business in China complied with legal advice the company had received by external lawyers, despite the fact that 16 of its staff were arrested by Chinese authorities in 2016 on accusations they had violated Chinese anti-gambling laws.

Counsel assisting the inquiry has recommended findings that Crown and Mr Packer are not presently fit to be associated with the new casino.

The inquiry commissioner is expected to issue a report in February 2021.

Crown Sydney project on track despite coronavirus pandemic

The growing demand for casino gaming options in Australia is being linked with the construction of luxury integrated resorts. 

So Much Poker reported in June that Sydney’s second casino is set to open this year.

The $2.2 billion project will inevitably change the state of Australia’s gambling operations.

Crown’s arrival means there is a rival to Star Sydney, with the newest waterfront establishment is also designed to frame the views of Sydney Harbour’s icons standing at a 275-metre-high.

Crown Sydney is located in the stylish Barangaroo district.

The development is built to “redefine luxury as the newest sanctuary in the city” and become a pinnacle of modern design”, Crown said.

Crown Sydney will feature a 5-star hotel hosting a total of 349 guest rooms and suites along with its signature restaurants and bars, luxury retail outlets and lavish pool and spa facilities.

Premium gaming areas are set to have around 120 gaming tables when it opens later this year and VIP gaming facilities will also be available in Crown’s members-only casino.

Bets of between $20 and $30 will be the standard minimum which casino industry experts note is on-par with general recreational gambling.

The complex also boasts of high class apartments located on the upper floors of the building.

Homeowners at Crown Residences Barangaroo are set to move in during the first half of 2021.

The fascinating tower, which can be seen all across the city, is fitted to have an astonishing 50 different types of marble and stone used throughout the building, 50 custom made crystal light installations and a multitude of greenery, altogether bringing indulgence and sophistication for its clientele.

1,800 pieces of artwork, the majority of which are made by local artists will also be showcased throughout the development, adding great design to an already captivating façade.

Lendlease Group chief executive and managing director Steve McCann said that when complete, Barangaroo will be transformed from a disused industrial site to a world-class urbanisation district.

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