(Health warning: reading about corruption and gambling in Australia can be distressing).
An enquiry by Justice Patricia Bergin found that Crown Sydney and parent Crown Resorts are ‘unsuitable persons’ to hold a casino licence in NSW, due to proven money-laundering and organised criminal activity at the Melbourne and Perth casinos. Major shareholder James Packer should divest his shareholding to below 10% because of his undue influence.
Board members are jumping ship or getting pushed, whilst others try to re-organise the deck chairs. Their knowledge, or lack thereof, of the illegal activities is either blatantly corrupt or a huge governance failure. Bergin does not hand out casino licences in NSW, and her findings must now be considered by the so-called NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority. Gaming of course sounds so much friendlier than gambling!
Former politician Helen Coonan (untarnished by ten years on the board?) is appointed Executive Chairperson, to rehabilitate Crown with a wave of her magic wand and some fairy dust. The regulator expressed his support of her appointment, as there would be ‘nobody else to talk to’, which revealingly shows that he is too close to the regulated entity, and also the thin veneer of governance at Crown.
The regulator paradigm is far too accommodating. How could it consider waiting for Crown to sort out its problems, given its gross ‘unsuitability’. Surely Crown should get a life-long ban on holding a casino licence, not just a few weeks in the sin bin. It does not have a god-given right to hold any casino licences, anywhere!
The Barangaroo casino project is now potentially a stranded asset. Development consent was given outside of normal processes by the O’Farrell government under a special category of ‘unsolicited proposal’. Both major political parties have received political donations by casino operators. Senior government figures from both parties have previously parachuted into management roles at Crown.
Moreover the NSW government’s reliance on gambling tax revenue is an immoral cancer inside our public body politic, which of course is metastasised in the hotels and clubs industry. Conflict of interest is rampant.
In light of the proven illegal activities in Melbourne and Perth casinos, how can the gambling authorities in those states continue to regard Crown as ‘suitable’ to hold licences? And that’s only talking about the operating licences. What about the social licence of this rapacious, destructive gambling empire?
The only cure for the cancer is to apply Barangaroo El Supositorio therapeutically or otherwise on its owner and his political mates.