Crown Royal Commission Exposes Serious Concerns

The Crown Royal Commission uncovers some serious short comings

The Crown Royal Commission is not helping to rebuild Crown Resorts’ tarnished reputation. Quite the opposite, in fact. The Crown Royal Commission’s public hearings began last week and took only one day to uncover serious concerns.

Ray Finkelstein QC leads the Crown Royal Commission. He heard from a compliance officer at Victoria’s gambling regulator that Crown lied to him while he attempted to investigate why Chinese officials arrested 19 Crown staff in 2016.

Police in China arrested 19 Crown employees in October 2016. They charged 16 of them for illegally promoting gambling in China. The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation launched an investigation, but the final report only landed in February 2021.

The VCGLR ordered Crown to produce internal documents regarding the arrests. It carried out interviews with Crown’s senior executives as part of the investigation. Those executives denied there had been warning signs before the arrests.

Timothy Bryant is the aforementioned compliance officer at VCGLR. He gave evidence at the Crown Royal Commission.

“I suppose I was giving Crown, when was conducting the interviews, the benefit of the doubt at the time to give their position – I didn’t have access to a lot of material at that stage. In hindsight, though, I certainly consider that at times they lied to me at interviews with what they were aware of and what they weren’t aware of.”

Matters Grow Worse on Day 2 of the Crown Royal Commission

As if being accused of lying to regulators was not bad enough, additional accusations followed on Day 2.

Jason Cremona works as the regulator’s licensing manager. He told the Crown Royal Commission that Crown’s former top legal officer threatened him.

Threats to contact Victoria’s gaming minister were made, with Crown complaining the VCGLR was pushing the casino to adopt tighter money laundering measures. According to Cremona, Crown responded “pretty aggressively” to a 2019 letter raising concerns. Those concerns related to the fact Crown had failed to act on key recommendations from its 2018 licence review.

Further revelations came to light as the Crown Royal Commission grilled witnesses. Murray Lawson, a partner with Deloitte, was part of an independent review into Crown’s use of junket operators. Lawson claims he was brought in to appease the Bergin inquiry, showing Crown was serious about changing its policies. Crown withheld reports written by its former head of anti-money laundering, however.

Crown Not The Only One Under Scrutiny

There is not only a Crown Royal Commission into the company’s Melbourne affairs; its Perth casino is on the hook, too. The Perth Casino Royal Commission’s first week of hearing is done and dusted, spanning 19 hours.

That hearing heard about severe shortcomings of the Gaming and Wagering Commission (GWC). The GWC oversees all gambling activity in Western Australia.

Director-General Duncan Ord also acts as the GWC chair. He revealed some shocking truths.

First, Ord only spends between 10-20 hours per month on matters relating to the GWC. Furthermore, the GWC has no dedicated staff, no official office, no printer or phones. Other members received $16,000 per year and an iPad to work from.

Ord revealed the GWC no longer has dedicated casino inspectors. Any inspectors in its books are required to monitor other gaming, liquor, and racing matters.

Barry Sargeant, a former director-general, came under the cosh too. The Perth Casino Royal Commission grilled him about a potential conflict of interests. A Crown-paid trip to Macau in 2013 was of particular concern.

Michael Connolly, the deputy general directors, faced similar conflict of interest questions. Connolly spoke of regular dinners and fishing trips with Crown Perth’s legal and compliance team. he also admitted to selling one of that team a boat for $13,000.

“I thought they were sufficiently declared and known, but certainly hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I think that I would agree now that there could be a perception of that.”