Aussie Regulators Widen Casino Probes, Looking Into Billionaire James Packer’s Crown And Suitor Star
Australian regulators are widening probes of casinos down under, with the anti-money laundering watchdog looking into billionaire James Packer’s Crown Resorts and its suitor Star Entertainment Group.
The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (Austrac) disclosed the Star probe on Monday among a string of fresh inquiries at other casinos that includes a widening probe into Crown, which has been the subject of regulatory probes since last year.
Star said Austrac has identified “potential serious non-compliance” by Star to the country’s anti-money laundering rules, while Auckland-based SkyCity Entertainment Group, which operates a casino in Adelaide, said it’s also under investigation.
“Star takes its anti-money laundering obligations very seriously and will fully cooperate with Austrac in relation to its requests for information and documents and the investigation,” the company said in a filing to the Australian Stock Exchange.
Star, the only casino operator in Sydney, mounted a A$9.5 billion ($7.3 billion) bid last month to merge with Crown that would create a A$12 billion casino giant. “That remains to be the case,” a spokesman for Star said in reply to Forbes Asia’s query whether it will still pursue the merger proposal.
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Separately, Crown said Austrac has initiated formal investigations into potential breaches of anti-money laundering laws by Crown Perth. Regulators have been investigating Crown Melbourne since October 2020, while Crown Sydney’s gaming license was suspended in February this year.
In its filing to ASX, Crown said Austrac found historical breaches, which are not related to the probe announced today, at Crown Melbourne.
“The Crown Board has recently received legal advice that a practice that existed at Crown Melbourne between 2012 and 2016 contravened section 68 of the Casino Control Act,” Crown said in a statement. “This practice involved Crown receiving payment from debit or credit cards of international guests at Crown Melbourne’s Crown Towers Hotel, with the funds then available to the patron for gaming at the casino.”
Some A$160 million were transacted through the hotel credit/debit card process at Crown Melbourne, according to Crown. While the practice stopped in November 2016, Crown said it’s “continuing its investigations into these matters, including whether it may have breached other laws by reason of the hotel card process.”
Crown last month rejected the A$8.4 billion all-cash offer from Blackstone Group shortly after receiving the merger proposal made by Star. In rejecting Blackstone’s proposal, Crown said in a statement on May 17 that “the board considered a range of scenarios given the regulatory inquiries in relation to Crown which are underway.”
Packer is the largest shareholder of Crown, which owns casinos in Australia and London, after taking over the empire of his late father, Kerry. He stepped down from the company’s board in March 2018 and resigned from the board of his family’s holding company Consolidated Press four months later.