Crown cops it but doesn’t lose license yet

The Bergin inquiry report found Crown Sydney Gaming to be not a suitable ‘person’ to hold Sydney’s second casino license and the new Barangaroo Casino will remain closed.

Commissioner Patricia Bergin found evidence of money laundering, organised crime and deep and systemic problems of misconduct. None of this is new.

The real problem is one of vested interest.

Governments have turned a blind eye to what has been known for decades because they are now so dependent on the gambling tax dollar.

Commissioner Bergin said Crown was unwilling to engage meaningfully out of corporate arrogance.

James Packer’s 36% holding is under threat with Commissioner Patricia Bergin saying individual holdings ought to be no more than 10%.

What’s been uncovered in NSW is no doubt also rife in Victoria.

It’s hard to get the latest figures but the Victorian State Government received over $200m in tax revenue from the Crown Casino and from all gambling in the state ~13% of its total revenue. State governments have vested interests in the growth and greed of the gambling industry so they are a large part of the problem.

Commissioner Bergin said it was unlikely Crown would be able to reform itself to become a suitable licence holder while Andrew Demetriou and Michael Johnston remain directors of Crown Resorts – the parent company of Barangaroo casino licensee, Crown Sydney Gaming. So it too is not a suitable ‘person’ to be a close associate of the licensee, Crown Sydney Gaming Pty Ltd.

Some of the recommendations made:

  • An Independent Casino Commission be established as an dedicated, stand-alone, specialist casino regulator with the powers of a standing Royal Commission and to be the sole decision-maker for casino licences and disciplinary action. Casino applicants to provide the ICC with clear and convincing evidence of their suitability as a licence holder
  • A full and wide-ranging forensic audit of all accounts to ensure criminal elements are not connected in any way.
  • James Packer to cease “remote manoeuvring”, to influence company directors despite his absence from the Crown Board.
  • A restructure of the Crown Board.
  • Casinos to monitor patrons’ accounts and perform heightened customer due diligence
  • A prohibition against dealing with junket operators
  • Casinos will pay supervisory levies to the ICC
  • Casinos to monitor patrons’ accounts and perform heightened customer due diligence
  • A prohibition against casino operators in NSW from dealing with junket operators

The NSW Government in its last budget statement, said the closure of clubs, hotels and casinos between March and May 2020 preventing patrons from attending these businesses. This, combined with restrictions in June, lowered gambling tax revenues by $455.9 million relative to 2019-20 half-yearly Review expectations. Nonetheless, $3 billion was expected in government coffers from gambling taxes overall.

It calls into question what responsibility high profile directors directors will take for the findings – Jane Halton, former government departmental secretary, and board chair Helen Coonan, former Barrister, Liberal Senator and Minister. Did they turn a blind eye too. It’s not good enough to say they did not know – it’s the role of all Board members to know what’s going on in their organisations, particularly one with such high stakes.

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