Home of the Australian Poker Championship or otherwise known as Aussie Millions, the Crown Casino will be facing a fast-tracked review of its license as a result of reports linking them to money laundering and other illegal activities.
It has been barely a month since lawyers representing Crown Resorts in Australia admitted that it may have been possible that two of the casino operator's bank accounts were utilized for criminal activity, even though the company was not aware of it at the time. That came after months of repeated denials of wrongdoing as Crown continues to be investigated for many things from rigging gaming machines to allowing war criminals to play, to illegal junket relationships, to money laundering, among others.
New Lawsuit over Money Laundering Scandal
The newest lawsuit over money laundering definitely slashed down Crown's stock price, which fell from UD$8.99 ($6.80) to $8.25 ($6.24) in just three days in October. It has recently been denied the chance to open a new casino in Sydney this month, and to make things worse, now a class-action lawsuit has been issued over its lack of corporate integrity due to the stock's failure.
The Victorian government has now fast-tracked its next major review of Crown Resorts' Melbourne casino license. Gaming Minister Melissa Horne has brought forwards its review by two years the seventh Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation casino review to determine if Crown is suitable to hold the state's sole casino license.
Not expected until 2023, the license review will start shortly after Horne designates a dedicated sessional commissioner to lead it. The last license review happened in 2018. Horne said, "This review is needed given the evidence we've seen come out of the NSW inquiry. We're making sure Crown Melbourne conducts its business in a transparent and appropriate manner."
The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) will be under intense scrutiny to mete out satisfactory punishments in the upcoming review, amid criticism it has previously been soft on Crown and incredibly slow in investigating its failure to prevent money laundering and reliance on junket operators linked to organized crime.
Last year in August, the VCGLR announced an urgent investigation in response to a series of reports by 60 Minutes, The Age, and The Sydney Morning Herald regarding Crown's unpleasant dealings. However, over a year later it had yet to report back to the Andrews government and in October issued Crown with a notice to show cause for why it should not be disciplined over its dealings.
In September, prominent gambling campaigner and federal independent MP Andrew Wilkie said that it was "beyond belief that the VCGLR is apparently still being trusted by the Victorian government to investigate Crown, given the VCGLR's breathtaking failures year after year."
The NSW inquiry into Crown, also triggered by the same media reports, has been way more public and way more damaging than anything seen in Victoria - even if much of the alleged wrongdoing was associated with the Melbourne casino.
Counsel assisting the inquiry Adam Bell, in his final submission concluded Crown was an unsuitable candidate for a casino license, casting doubt over the future of the company's $2.2 billion Barangaroo casino in Sydney.
Commissioner Patricia Bergin will be guided by her counsel assisting's conclusions and her final report is expected to be delivered in February.
The NSW inquiry has examined money laundering at Crown's casinos, how its staff were put at risk in China in 2016 before their arrest and jailing, business ties to people linked to organized crime; and the sale of Crown shares by former major shareholder James Packer's private company, Consolidated Press Holdings, to Melco Resorts in possible breach of Crown's NSW casino license.
One of the 19 Crown workers arrested for breaking Chinese gambling laws back in 2016 is suing the company by launching a class action lawsuit for breaching their duty of care to her as an employee.
Furious at being called a "gold-digger" by the casino in newspaper articles, Jenny Jiang told abc.au news, "Crown operated in China without care to their staff. Their actions hurt me and my family. They have not been held accountable. I want justice."
"We brought so much revenue, so much business and profit for Crown. And we were just dumped like a used napkin. That's why I feel so angry - I feel so upset with what happened and what they're saying about me."
Adam Bell said a ‘common theme' on the China arrests and the Melco transaction was the "deleterious impact on the governance of Crown Resorts caused by its dominant shareholder, CPH and ultimately Mr. Packer. The impact of that influence put Crown Resorts in breach of its regulatory agreements with the [NSW gambling] authority. The adverse impact of CPH in compromising proper reporting lines of Crown Resorts was a factor leading to the China arrests. The adverse impact of CPH and Mr. Packer... was ultimately harmful to the public interest, which is a primary object of the Casino Control Act to protect."
In other news, Crown is also facing a separate shareholder class action lawsuit, which seeks compensation for investors who lost money after the group's share price plummeted in relation to the money laundering scandal as well as a potential buy-back of investors' shares at a fair value.
Crown Melbourne is a casino and resort located on the south bank of the Yarra River in Melbourne, Australia. It is host to the annual Aussie Millions, but the tournament has been postponed indefinitely and will not happen in 2021, mainly because of the COVID-19 pandemic.