You are here

Crown Resorts Embroiled in China-Linked Corruption Scandal

AUS Flag Map

Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia, is one of the country’s largest and most well-known casinos, but it is currently the subject of a lot of controversy amid accusations related to a great deal of unscrupulous activity. Dealing with allegations of money laundering and corruption that extend to Australian consulate officials in China, this story is actively evolving and only seems to be getting bigger by the day.

Crown CasinoThe Crown Casino in Melbourne

At its core, this scandal speaks volumes about both the legal and regulated operators within the Australian casino industry as well as those who oversee the industry. The same folks who have worked to ban online poker and other forms of online gambling on moral grounds are having their own honesty called into question.

These misdeeds came to light near the end of July as a result of a collaborative effort by 60 Minutes Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald, and The Age. They investigated for six months and then produced “Crown Unmasked,” which details the supposed wrongdoing. You can watch their video below:



What Did Crown Do?

Question Mark

One of the biggest – and most startling – allegations being made against Crown Resorts, which owns the Crown Casino, is that they used Australian consulate officials in China to bring in high-stakes gamblers. The casino supposedly had their consulate contacts “fast-track” visa applications that originated from gamblers with deep pockets. The story would not be nearly as big of a deal had it ended there, but it doesn’t.

Crown was allegedly so obsessed with attracting wealthy Chinese clients that they reportedly dealt with organized crime and brazenly broke Chinese laws related to the promotion of gambling. In fact, 19 Crown staff members were arrested for this exact offense only a few years ago.

Moreover, some of the high-rollers are said to have utilized Crown's assistance in moving large sums of cash around illicitly: almost the textbook definition of money laundering. There are even charges that Crown management did business with human traffickers to provide sex workers to entertain its big-spending whales.

Minimizing the Damage But Maximizing Scrutiny

Magnifying Glass

With so much negative news coming to light, it is no wonder that people closely associated with Crown are beginning to engage in some defensive damage control.

James Packer, Crown’s biggest shareholder and a member of one of Australia’s richest families, released a statement through his lawyer that seemed like an attempt on the part of Packer to distance himself from the situation.

James Packer and Mariah CareyBillionaire Casino Magnate James Packer With Ex Mariah Carey

Rather than admit guilt of any type, Packer’s succinct statement made it clear that he was not a part of Crown management when the alleged dealings in China took place. Rather than deny the allegations outright, Packer instead opted to simply save face and move on by claiming that he has just a “passive role” at Crown.

Crown Resorts did not remain silent either. Its board of directors wrote a message that ran as a full-page ad in prominent Australian media outlets on July 31.

Crown lambasted what it called a “deceitful campaign” and criticized the reporting as “based on unsubstantiated allegations, exaggerations, unsupported connections and outright falsehoods.” The ad then went on to deny, point by point, the specific allegations made against Crown.

Ad From Crown ResortsExcerpt From the Crown Ad That Ran in Multiple Media Channels

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age refused to run this advertisement by Crown. Instead, they published refutations of each criticism levied by the corporation against the news outlets.

Government Conspiracy?

Unidentified Man

In light of the recent revelations, there are serious doubts that the Australian regulatory bodies responsible for thwarting money laundering, overseeing state-licensed gaming operators, and regulating border control have the capacity to do their jobs with integrity.

It's likely that Crown Resorts isn't the only operator acting poorly in the industry. If the shady activities it supposedly undertook as a routine matter of course extend across the whole sector, then the casinos are acting unscrupulously in foreign countries. Within Australia itself, they may be partaking in financial transactions with Chinese triads (gangs) as well as flying Chinese nationals to the country on visas that were not obtained in the proper manner. All of this suggests officials who are in on the take or, at the very least, asleep at the wheel.

It is worth noting that this is not the first time Australian gaming industry regulators have been under scrutiny. Back in 2017, the Victorian Auditor-General's Office released a report that, in essence, claimed that the regulatory body in charge of monitoring gaming compliance was incapable of effectively performing its tasks. Despite that, no substantive changes were made, and business continued on as usual.

Official Investigation Coming?

File Folder

The Attorney General for Australia, Christian Porter, is determined to get to the bottom of these allegations rather than letting them pass by without further investigation. Porter spoke before Parliament on July 30, saying:

A strong integrity and professional standards culture is fundamental to public confidence in our work and the Australian Government's work.

I have considered the allegations that have been raised in media reporting and particularly as they touch upon allegations which are either directly relatable to, or tangentially relatable to, Commonwealth officers.

It is my view that there are sufficient concerns raised at least to warrant further investigations.

Christian PorterAustralian Attorney General Christian Porter

Present State of Gambling in Australia

Clipboard

While we wait for AG Porter's “further investigations” to unfold, it is important to take stock of where we are at now. Currently, Australians are being told what types of gambling are and are not allowed to legally take place in the country by the very people who are being accused of breaking multiple laws. In fact, some of these accusations make it very clear that dangerous individuals and organizations were in contact with actual officials of the Australian government.

Online casinos, online poker, and virtually all other forms of online gambling (apart from sports betting and lotteries) are illegal in Australia thanks to the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill, lobbied for by the very folks who are themselves suspected of breaking the law. This should be cause for concern and enough for the powers that be in Australia to seriously reconsider the people who are put in charge.

Meanwhile, brick-and-mortar gaming continues apace with slot or “pokie” machines located in casinos, pubs, and clubs. By some accounts, Australia has the highest gambling losses per annum of any country in the world, leading to many calls for restrictions on the industry and anti-problem gaming initiatives.

Yet, despite the fact that live gambling undoubtedly comprises a large share of the total betting taking place in the Land of Oz, it appears that the online variety is coming in for more than its fair share of regulation. Just look at the National Consumer Protection Framework and the enforcement tactics of the Australian Communications and Media Authority, both of which focus on internet wagering rather than offline betting.

Crown Casino Scandal

Online Poker Still Around

Computer

Notwithstanding all the attempts made to kill it off entirely, the internet poker landscape for Australians is still going strong. It's true that many sites have been strong-armed into leaving the market, but there are still reputable places to play.

Note that all the legal sanctions that are directed against this activity penalize those running the offshore rooms rather than everyday players. This means that you're not subject to any legal risk if you turn on your computer and go online to the poker room of your choice.

For a rundown of the best cardroom sites available to you, check out our informative guide to online poker in Australia. Those in other parts of the world can instead read our page about America-friendly internet poker destinations or our list of online poker rooms for Canadians.