Crown reckless and arrogant, inquiry told

Hannah Ryan
·2-min read

Casino giant Crown Resorts had a culture of recklessness, arrogance, and denial, which valued profit above all else.

The person responsible for setting the tone from the top was the company's former executive chairman, now major shareholder, billionaire James Packer.

That's what counsel assisting a NSW gaming authority inquiry into Crown told commissioner, Patricia Bergin, in closing submissions on Friday.

Crown's failures of governance, culture and risk management are so extensive that it is not fit to run a new $2.2 billion casino in Australia, the inquiry has been told.

Mr Packer's "shameful" and "disgraceful" conduct means the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority should reconsider its approval for the business mogul to be a "close associate" of the casino operator, counsel argued.

The inquiry saw footage of bricks of cash being unhurriedly piled on to a cash desk in a room in Crown Melbourne run by Macau junket Suncity. A cash-counting machine lay on the desk.

Counsel assisting, Scott Aspinall, said it was open for Ms Bergin to find that money was laundered at Crown's Australian casinos.

At an appropriately managed casino, an "obviously risky" arrangement like the Suncity room would not have been contemplated, let alone maintained for years, Mr Aspinall argued.

Business mogul Mr Packer was closely involved in Crown's VIP international business, which used junket operators to bring high-rollers to gamble at its Australian casinos.

Mr Packer set a "dubious" tone from the top in relation to junket operators, counsel assisting Naomi Sharp SC said, driving a culture that valued profit above all else.

Its dealings with junket operators revealed Crown's serious cultural problems including a culture of denial and a culture of "arrogant indifference to regulatory compliance".

Though the company has recently taken steps to address the culture and risk management issues exposed by the inquiry, Ms Sharp said those efforts have largely been tokenistic. Crucially, they have not involved looking back at what went wrong,.

Crown Resorts repeatedly dealt with Chinese junket operators despite being on notice they were connected to organised crime.

Instead of approaching warning signs with caution, the publicly-listed company adopted an approach of "if in doubt, rule it in", according to Ms Sharp.

"That reverses the onus of what ... a casino operator in Victoria or NSW needs to do," she said.

"Reputation, integrity, honesty are the things that matter here."

The inquiry has examined whether Crown's NSW licence was violated when Mr Packer's private company, Consolidated Press Holdings, attempted to sell 19.99 per cent of its stock in 2019 to the banned Melco Resorts. It has also examined money laundering at Crown casinos.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is seeking urgent advice on the matter, and has not ruled out pushing back the December opening date for the Barangaroo development.

Closing submissions continue on Monday. Inquiry commissioner Patricia Bergin is expected to deliver a final report on February 1.