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Crown Resorts' new $ 2.2 billion gambling mecca in Barangaroo may never open its doors after an independent investigation found the James Packer-backed group unable to obtain a casino license in NSW to own.
Former Supreme Court Justice Patricia Bergin said in her 750-page final report released Tuesday afternoon after an 18-month investigation into the company that Crown would need a management overhaul if it were ever to acquire a casino license, and that the state gambling authority should reconsider Mr. Packer's involvement.
Commissioner Bergin said an investigation into an investigation by The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and 60 Minutes in Crown in 2019 that sparked the investigation confirmed that Crown had "facilitated" money laundering through its bank accounts. "Disregard for the well-being" of its employees in China before 19 were arrested there in 2016 and started doing business with high roller junket tour groups affiliated with Triad and other organized crime groups.
This made Crown unsuitable for having a casino license whose core problem was "poor corporate governance, poor risk management structures and processes, and poor corporate culture".
"One of the troubles for Crown has been its unwarranted self-belief and unwillingness to entertain the prospect that there is some power in any of the allegations [in the media]," wrote Commissioner Bergin.
The results will increase pressure on the Victoria and WA governments to trade at Crown casinos in Melbourne and Perth, where the behavior that made it inappropriate occurred. The recommendations are non-binding and the NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority will meet later this month to review which recommendations, if any, should be implemented.
Commissioner Bergin said it was evident that Crown's 36% shareholder James Packer was in "real power" of the company, which had "catastrophic consequences for the company".
She said ILGA should consider his approval as a "close associate" of Crown in the face of the explosive revelation that he sent a threatening email to a Melbourne businessman in 2015. Mr. Packer said his behavior was a result of his bipolar disorder.
Commissioner Bergin recommended that NSW set an ownership cap so that any investor would need NSW regulator approval to buy or own more than 10% of a casino operator, opening up the possibility of ordering Mr. Packer to take his stake in the company for sale.
Commissioner Bergin said that the Crown Reformation, to become eligible, would also require "a full and comprehensive forensic review of all of its accounts to ensure that the criminal elements that were infiltrated [two Crown-linked bank accounts] were not others Accounts have infiltrated ".
The report calls upon NSW to establish the Independent Casino Commission, "a dedicated, self-contained, specialized casino regulator with the framework to address existing and emerging risks to games and casinos."