Major Australian casino operator Crown Resorts have fervently denied any wrongdoing after a media investigation into the company’s dealings with VIP and high roller Chinese gamblers.
A joint investigation by 60 Minutes, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald alleged representatives of Crown Resorts performed illegal actions in their attempts to entice Chinese high rollers to is Melbourne and Perth casino properties. The base of the report stemmed from statements from government officials, former Crown representatives, and a dossier of leaked emails.
The main section of the investigation focussed on Crown Resort links to junket operators. These junket operators place a facilitatory role in the billion-dollar Macau gambling market, offering wealthy VIPs luxury travel, accommodation, personalized service, and special promotions to play high stakes casino games.
Allegations of Involvements With Junket Operators
It is alleged Crown Casinos has links to the Suncity Group, the market leader in junket operators, which helps to recruit rich Chinese gamblers from China’s mainland while serving as a sort of financial middleman between Crown Resorts and the high rollers in an attempt to circumvent China’s strict capital controls.
Several measures were put into place by the Chinese government to prevent what is known as capital flight, where large amounts of the Chinese currency leave the country. For example, there is a blanket ban on domestic cryptocurrency exchanges and individuals face tough questioning when it comes to buying foreign currency. The junket operators work behind the scenes to help high roller casino game players avoid any unwanted attention.
A former Crown representative, Jenny Jiang, told 60 Minutes that Crown Resorts directly marketed its gambling facilities to Chinese VIPs, violating local Chinese law. Crown Resorts maintain its representatives have only ever marketed its hotel properties and not the casinos themselves.
The federal government of Australia was also named in the investigation, which claims some cabinet ministers and other members of parliament played a role in raising serious national security concerns by making it possible for known criminals to enter the country.
China’s Foreign Ministry Reacts Angrily
Allegations that border officials were pressurized into fast-tracking visa applications for Crow Resorts’ Chinese gamblers were denied by the operator. It is though the cousin of China’s President Xi Junping, Ming Chai, was one such Chinese VIP who was given a visa without much scrutiny.
China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying angrily denied Ming Chai had been given preferential treatment by Australian officials.
“I don’t know where these media outlets dig out these rumors from to make such groundless accusations. These sensational claims are an attempt to discredit China. I think such tactics are despicable.”
Crown Resorts Linked to Triad Organizations
Perhaps the most damning accusations were the ones linking Crown Resorts to The Company, an organized crime gang run by prominent Hong Kong triads. The Company is thought to have imported vast quantities of drugs into Australia and used Crown Resorts casinos as a facility to launder its “dirty money.”
Recently, James Packer, the former boss of Crown Resorts, sold a 20% stake in the company to Melco Resorts & Entertainment. This company is run by Lawrence Ho, son of Stanley Ho who is the founder of the original casino operator in Macao, SJM Holdings. Stanley Ho has long been linked with triad activity, as has Lawrence Ho. Ho junior has publicly denied any triad links and has stated he welcomes any investigation by the Australian regulators, who may still scupper the aforementioned deal to buy 20% of Crown Resorts.
That investigation may come sooner than Ho thinks as the Australian government on Tuesday ordered a full inquiry and report into the handling of Chinese VIPs by Crown Resorts.
Attorney-General Christian Porter said, “It’s my view that there are sufficient concerns raised at least to warrant further investigations.”
A statement from Crown Resorts reads, “Crown absolutely rejects allegations of illegality made in Parliament today and in recent media reporting. We believe these allegations are ill-informed and an attempt to smear the company.”
Shares in Crown Resorts fell from $12.26 per share to a low of $11.78 per share yesterday, before recovering to $12.03, a fall of 1.88%.