Once Deemed as 'Unfit', Crown Learns it Can Keep Sydney Gaming License

Written by:
Aaron Goldstein
Published on:

Crown Casino finally learned its fate Tuesday after months of speculation.  The troubled casino can maintain its Sydney gaming licence after all.


This comes after the state’s independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) found in 2021 that Crown was unfit to hold a gaming licence for its $2bn Barangaroo casino.

It followed damning allegations of money laundering at the venue being exposed during a public inquiry.

Crown Sydney was granted a conditional gaming licence in June last year after it “rebuilt its gaming model from the ground up”.

In 2017, The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation conducted a probe into the casino after Crown was alleged by federal independent MP Andrew Wilkie to have tampered with poker machines at its Melbourne establishment in order to increase profits.  Crown was also accused at that time of allowing gamblers to dodge money laundering laws.

Two years later the casino would be featured in a damning segment of 60 Minutes Australia in regard to - not only money laundering - but sex trafficking and drugs.

The "60 Minutes" piece revealed how a former Crown Casino employee named Jenny was arrested in China on alleged gambling crimes in 2016. She was one of 18 colleagues, including three Australians and one of Crown's top executives, who were also detained. According to Jenny, before the raids, Crown had provided specific instructions to its staff on what to do if Chinese police burst through their doors, including not to cooperate with the government. Crown's internal data reveals that the company was actively involved in promoting gambling in Macau, using its own staff and junket operators to bring high-rolling Chinese clients to Australia. The transcript excerpt suggests that Crown may have been aware of the illegal activities taking place and may have actively participated in them.

The casino company appears to be turning over a new leaf.

Reforms included major structural overhauls along with anti-money laundering measures and changes to its corporate culture.

“We had a contractual requirement to negotiate in good faith with Crown,” said NICC chief commissioner Philip Crawford, noting the establishment had outlined a “path to suitability” which led to the major changes, including major overhauls of the board.

He said he was satisfied Crown had demonstrated it could retain its casino licence.

American equity giant Blackstone took control of Crown in 2022 in a $8.9bn purchase.

Since then, more than $71m has been pumped into the casino giant in response to its multiple legal dramas.

- Aaron Goldstein, Gambling911.com

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