James Carmody

It’s been 18 months since the Crown was finished and we all laughed when we found out that it wasn’t eligible to hold a gaming license. Well, the joke’s on us now because Crown Resorts have secured a provisional license that allows gambling at the Sydney casino with regular supervision.

“After more than one year’s work with Crown, the authority is pleased to have reached a stage where Crown can open its casino operations on a conditional basis,” said NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority (ILGA) Chairman, Philip Crawford.

Crawford continued, “Given the need to observe the changes in operation as well as ensure changes are embedded in the business, the authority will consider approval of Crown’s suitability until the end of the conditional gaming period, which could run between 18 months and two years. The new systems and internal control measures have been set up and will be in place from day one.”

That means that the Crown doesn’t have a full gaming license just yet.

The biggest factor that has given the ILGA confidence in the Crown has been the board and senior executive cleanout the resort performed. This has been labelled a clear indicator of progress.

Naturally, the Crown are stoked with Crown CEO, Steve McCann, saying, “Our customers and our people, who have been eagerly awaiting this announcement for some time and cannot wait to share the full Crown Sydney experience with the world.”

McCann added, “Over the past 15 months, we have worked closely with ILGA to ensure we have the right measures in place for the commencement of gaming in Sydney. And we will continue to work with them on our reform program, to showcase our suitability as a casino operator. We will now finalise our opening plans and look forward to shortly announcing the details and timing of our launch.”

I’m sure punters will be very excited for that launch.

Why The Crown’s License Was Suspended

In late 2020, the Crown’s casino license was suspended. After a formal public inquiry led by former Supreme Court Judge, Patricia Bergin, they found that there was “poor corporate governance, deficient risk management structures and processes, and a poor corporate culture.”

In other words, some easy dodgy dealings would have occurred similar to what the mob did in Las Vegas during the 1950s – 70s. In fact, you might be surprised to find out that the Crown had some alleged partnerships with junket operators linked to organised crime. Yikes.

In order to become eligible for a license, the inquiry required a management overhaul (which has occurred) and, funnily enough, a reconsideration of James Packer’s involvement that hasn’t been resolved yet.

The Star Sydney Also (Probably) Dodgy

Marianna Massey

Seems that casinos are simply a breeding ground for corruption and dodgy dealings as Star Entertainment admits there have been “significant deficiencies and failings” at the Sydney casino.

An independent review by Adam Bell SC discovered allegations of money laundering, fraud, and criminal infiltration at the casino. You know, all the things the Crown has been accused of.

The Star says it’s still fit to hold a license though. Kate Richardson SC said that “the persons who engaged in the misconduct are no longer with the business. The Star respectfully submits that the review should conclude that it is presently suitable to hold the casino license.”

This makes it sound like it was a few bad eggs but since the inquiry it hasn’t been the little guys resigning. CEO Matt Bekier, CFO Harry Theodore, and Chief Casino Officer Greg Hawkins have all resigned. This went all the way up to the top.

Just last month, counsel assisting the NSW inquiry Naomi Sharp SC, said that there had been “unethical behaviour” in the legal team and “very serious failures” in risk management.

Honestly, who is actually shocked about this?

Gambling in Australia is a Problem

Gambling is a huge issue in Australia. Estimates suggest that Australians in 2018-19 lost $25 billion on legal forms of gambling. This represents the largest per capita losses in the world!

From 2001-02, gambling expenditure by Australians were at $22.6 billion. That has increased to $25 billion in 2018-19. All legal forms of gambling made up around 81-87% of total money lost in Australia. Pokie machines were responsible for 50-60% of those losses just on their own!

But things are getting (slightly) better. Around 7.9% of Australians were classified as being at risk of experiencing gambling related problems in 2015. By 2018, that percentage had dropped to around 7.2%.

Expenditure/losses per capita has also been trending downward from $1,547 in 2001-02 to $1,277 in 2018-19. The reason for this is fewer people gambling but those who are still in it are spending way more than before.

“If you look at comparable countries around the world,” said Charles Livingstone, associate professor of public health at Monash University, to The Washington Post. “We are far and away the worst in terms of both expenditure and its impact on the community.”

There is little political drive to change anything either with the gambling industry donating millions of dollars to the major political parties whilst also paying billions in taxes to the states and territories.

In NSW, the gaming commissioner was forcibly removed when he tried to introduce reforms that would have protected gamblers but at the expense of the gambling industry.

It’s all just a bit – just a tad – dodge, isn’t it?

For more, check out our review of the Harbour View Hotel Sydney!

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