Crown Resorts drops all junket operations

Gus McCubbing
·2-min read

Crown Resorts says it will stop dealing with all junket operations as the company fights to prove it is fit to run a new casino in Sydney.

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

Crown said it would only deal 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 last year alleged Crown's casinos 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 the Barangaroo casino licence is in its final week of hearings.

Crown Resorts lawyer Perry Herzfeld SC 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 were "not robust".

"We accept they had shortcomings, but we don't accept the characterisation that they were not robust," Mr Herzfeld said.

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

Mr Herzfeld 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 now be applied.

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

He also rejected the proposition that Crown had demonstrated either an "indifference to regulatory compliance" or a "culture of denial".

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 on Monday 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 anti-gambling laws.

Counsel assisting the inquiry has recommended finding that Crown and Mr Packer are not presently fit to be associated with the new $2.2 billion casino.

The inquiry before commissioner Patricia Bergin continues on Wednesday.

Ms Bergin is expected to issue a report in February 2021.