Australia’s flagship casino may have its license revoked

Australia is considering revoking the license of Crown Casino. The reason is numerous violations of the law and non-compliance with the principles of responsible gambling. The former executive director of the Crown Resorts Casino, Lonnie Bossie, testified before the Royal Perth Casino Commission. Crown Melbourne’s general manager of responsible gaming, Sonia Bauer, said the company has at least 12 employees to keep track of problem players and offer them help. However, the Commission felt that 12 people was not enough, for one of the largest casinos in the world, where about 64,000 visitors play daily.

Crown was investigated separately in Victoria, where its principal Melbourne casino is located, and in New South Wales after reports that the company had been carrying on deals with junket tour operators who were bringing in gamblers, mostly from China, allegedly with ties to organized crime.

Crown is a resort and casino operator that is part of a resort complex of the same name in Perth. Crown also owns three companies occupied with development of innovative gaming and entertainment solutions like those developed in the PM Tech academy. Crown, which emerged in 1997, has flourished into one of the state’s largest employers having over 15,000 employees in:

  • hotels;
  • operating rooms;
  • restaurants;
  • casino;
  • and entertainment venues!

In 2014, the Napthine coalition government prolonged Crown’s Melbourne casino license until 2050.

Inquiry issues

For the past several months, employees of this casino have been testifying in a case involving illegal gambling activities, including no player limits, loans to customers, money laundering, etc. A couple of months ago, employees at Crown Casino in Melbourne also told the Commission that some customers were allowed to play for 34 consecutive hours, and regularly allowed other players to stay on the machines and tables for 12 hours.

Bossie stated that the casino made loans to its own customers, which is prohibited under Western Australian law. The former casino executive also revealed that Crown Perth management planned to connect the China UnionPay payment system. This would have allowed players from China to use their credit cards to transfer money to the casino. Other sources told the Commission that Bossy had an account at Riverbank that was allegedly used to launder hundreds of millions of dollars.

Possible outcomes

Under the leadership of new chairwoman Helen Coonan, Crown has proposed an impressive reform program, but the best possible expectation is that the reform program probably won’t be accomplished until the end of 2022. It would have been clear, even if it had been accepted that Crown should retain its license, that it could not be trusted to carry out such reforms without government oversight in the form of the appointment of a watchdog.

In case the Commission decides that Crown is no longer suitable to administer the casino, its license may be suspended and transferred to another operator. In this case, the government shall assign an administrator, and the license will be offered for bidding. The possible alternative operators might be the Star Entertainment Group, which operates The Star casino in Sydney, or SkyCity entertainment from Auckland, which controls a casino in Adelaide. Some suggested that the government could even take over the license if they cannot find a satisfactory private operator.

Instead of issuing only one license for opening a casino, the Victorian government may consider changing the laws to authorize the opening of a number of casinos in the state. The presence of competition enhances the quality of service and, what is more important, diversifies the revenue base for the government so that it is no longer dependent on a single operator. If Crown is deemed no longer eligible to hold the license, the monopoly situation could potentially improve along the way. If Crown nevertheless keeps operating its casino, it must do so under much tougher regulations that will be efficiently and persistently observed.

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