Victorian government still waiting on “urgent” Crown Casino investigation

By Mia Chapman Updated
Royal commission hears that Crown was reluctant to implement tighter money laundering controls

The Victorian government is yet to hear back from the state’s regulator about the findings of an “urgent” investigation into the infiltration of organised crime at the state’s only casino.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports the state government ordered the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation to probe Crown Resorts’ involvement with junket operators, tied to powerful Asian crime syndicates.

The regulator is yet to report back to the government, with Victoria’s then-gaming minister, Marlene Kairouz, who quit the ministry in June, said the gambling regulator would examine the issues “as a matter of priority” and consult with Victoria Police and federal law enforcement agencies and report back to her “as soon as possible.”

The VCGLR confirmed this week, that more than a year later, it has not completed its investigation.

“The VCGLR continues to assess whether Crown’s due diligence in relation to junket operations was appropriate during the relevant times,” a VCGLR spokeswoman said.

The VCGLR was aware of the other investigations or inquiries underway into Crown, she said, and “continues to carefully monitor these matters to inform any regulatory action which may be required.”

The New South Wales gambling regulator has been revealing damning evidence about how Crown’s lax due diligence resulted in it forgoing business relationships that connected it to Asian Triad gangs, and how failures in anti-money laundering controls opened it up to being used by criminals to launder dirty cash.

The New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority is considering whether Crown should be able to keep the licence for its new Sydney casino, due to open in December.

Independent federal MP Andrew Wilkie, who has helped Crown staff become whistleblowers and facilitated damaging leaks about impropriety at the casino, said the Victorian “snap investigation” was a sham designed to hurry the allegations.

He said it was relief the NSW government “has some idea of what its job is.”

“The Victorian government should be paying very close attention to the NSW casino inquiry – much of the evidence is about alleged crimes and corruption that happened in the state of Victoria,” Mr Wilkie said,

“It’s beyond belief that the VCGLR is apparently still being trusted by the Victorian government to investigate Crown, given its breathtaking failures year after year.”

The VCGLR also confirmed that it failed to meet as required with Crown’s directors between November 2019 and March 2020 to review the implementation of 20 recommendations from the regulator’s 2018 review of Crown’s licence.

A Crown spokeswoman said the company “continues to engage and work with the VCGLR to implement all of the recommendations”.

A state government spokeswoman said its new gaming minister, Melissa Horne, had requested “regular updates on these matters from the VCGLR” and also called on relevant federal agencies to provide information to the commission.

State opposition gaming spokesman Peter Walsh said the government admitted there were serious concerns about Crown, and must “tell Victorians why another review is delayed and why critical information is yet again being held behind closed doors”.

Macau casino revenue increasing in September

Macau’s daily casino gross gaming revenue in September so far is nearly double the average across the whole of August.

GGR Asia reported in September that a note from brokerage firm Sanford C Bernstein made the estimate, based on what it termed “channel checks” – that the average daily rate for September 1 to 6 inclusive was around US$10.4 million, compared to $5.4 million in August.

Macau’s September casino gross gaming revenue is likely to see year-on-year decline in the “mid-80s” percentage wise, with “weekly numbers getting better” as recovery is driven by “increasing visa issuances” for visits by mainlanders from Guangdong province, added the memo.

Macau’s gross gaming revenue contracted 81.6 per cent year-on-year in the eight months to August 31, according to data from the city’s government.

Forecasts for 2020 “remain largely educated guesses at this time, with constantly-changing conditions altering expectations,” suggested the note from analysts Vitaly Umansky, Tianjiao Yu and Kelsey Zhu.

They added: “With a visa issuance timetable now in place, we believe the drivers of recovery will be confidence levels of customers to travel and spend, opening up Hong Kong to Macau travel and an increase in frequency of air transportation within Greater China, to airports in Guangdong/Hong Kong/Macau, to facilitate long-haul travel.”

The institution estimated – based on its checks – that Macau GGR for September 1 to 6 inclusive, was approximately US$62.5 million.

“The month-to-date average daily rate is down 89 per cent, compared to September 2019, but up 94 per cent compared to August this year, stated the brokerage.

“VIP volumes are down in the low 90s of per cent, in year-on-year terms, and mass is down nearly 90 per cent.

“Both segments are beginning to show a slight pickup,” the analysts added.

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