A number of Australian politicians have called for an inquiry into Crown Resorts following allegations published by three media outlets over the weekend linking the prominent casino operator to Asian crime syndicates.
According to a series of reports by prominent newspapers The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald as well as current affairs television program 60 Minutes, Crown’s pursuit of Chinese high rollers has seen it conduct business with at least one Asian junket operator connected to “Asia’s most powerful organized crime syndicates”.
In particular, the reports alleged that a criminal syndicate it refers to as “The Company” laundered money using “Crown-linked” bank accounts and junket rooms and that members of the syndicate were paid to lure high rollers to Crown’s Melbourne and Perth casinos. The syndicate is also said to have links to drug trafficking.
Australia’s most vocal anti-gambling campaigner, Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, was the first to call for a parliamentary inquiry in the wake of the reports, stating, “I would hope the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader would see the sense in a parliamentary response. This is a lot more now than allegations about one little casino.
“It’s multi-jurisdictional, multi-agency, international. This is very much something that the Australian government and the Australian Parliament should have an interest in.”
Wilkie has also called for a wider investigation into Australia’s casino industry in general. Crown is one of four casino operators Australia-wide, the others being Star Entertainment Group, SKYCITY Entertainment Group and Federal Group.
“I think that would be one of the things that a parliamentary inquiry could explore – the degree to which there is a cultural or systemic problem among Australia’s casino industry,” he said.
“But even if there is not a problem in other casinos, Crown is in some ways Australia’s most iconic casinos, and these allegations are so serious.”
Other politicians to have joined Wilkie in calling for an inquiry include independent senator Jacqui Lambie and Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie.
Meanwhile, former Victorian gaming minister Tony Robinson has called on the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation to allocate more resources into supervising Crown in the wake of the allegations, with an investigation into the arrest of 19 Crown Resorts employees for promoting gambling in mainland China in late 2016 still ongoing more than two years after the employees were released from a Shanghai jail.
“The regulator has for too long not applied the powers it has to scrutinise Crown adequately and it’s therefore no surprise to see these sorts of stories emerging,” Robinson told The Guardian.
“Regulatory failure in this instance gives rise to criminal enterprise and serious harm to the state.”
Crown itself has remained relatively quiet in the wake of the reports but issued a statement on Monday declaring the company “notes the media reports over the weekend which make various allegations regarding Crown’s business dealings.
“Crown takes its legal and regulatory responsibilities very seriously” but “denies any allegation that it knowingly exposed its staff to the risk of detention or conviction in China.”
While the weekend’s coverage raises serious concerns over the risk of money laundering in and around the casino industry, Inside Asian Gaming was the only media outlet to comment this week on the over-dramatization of reports linking Crown to the use of junket operators – a practice not only widely accepted within the casino industry but also employed by gaming operators in most casino-resorts the world over.