A potential opening date has been floated for Crown Sydney’s casino at Barangaroo.
The Australian Financial Review reports that Crown Resorts would open its Barangaroo casino before the end of October and has agreed to work with the state’s regulator to phase out cash in favour of a cashless card.
Crown suitor The Star group, which has proposed a $12 billion merger with the casino giant, is also expected to introduce cashless card technology in its Sydney casino when it becomes available.
card, which the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority said must be “linked to identity and a recognised financial institution”, is aimed at curbing organised criminal activity and money laundering.
Anti problem gambling advocates say the technology should also be designed to place limits on excessive gambling.
No timeline for the introduction of the cards at Australia’s biggest casino operators has been agreed, which means cash may still be used at Crown Sydney if it opens in the coming months.
Crown has not yet reached similar agreements with gambling regulators for its casinos in Victoria and West Australia but discussions are understood to be under way.
The embattled James Packer-backed group was judged unfit to run its Sydney casino in February after a damning report from the Bergin inquiry found Crown had facilitated the laundering of hundreds of millions of dollars at its Melbourne and Perth casinos and had links with Asian organised crime gangs through international junket programs.
Crown and The Star have also agreed with ILGA to cease all international junket operations.
Crown will also close its international offices including in Hong Kong.
As part of a restructure of its International VIP business Crown has closed its overseas offices and intends to operate its International VIP activities out of Australia,” Crown said.
Checks required before Crown casino ready to open in Sydney
ILGA chairman Philip Crawford said he expected the Sydney casino to be open before the end of October as long as Crown passes audits of its bank accounts to ensure it is still not laundering money and an independent monitor signs off on its anti money laundering and corporate governance systems.
“We’ve extended the liquor licence until the end of October. And I think you can assume that we are hopeful and-or confident that the opening of the gaming rooms will happen well in advance of the end of October,” Mr Crawford said.
Consulting giant Deloitte is combing through Crown’s bank accounts and the independent monitor will report to ILGA on corporate governance, culture and anti money laundering controls.
Mr Crawford stressed the casino giant was still unsuitable to use its casino licence and a lot of work still needed to be done, but ridding the board of Mr Packer’s influence and the swath of directors stepping down has been “positive”.
Crown has also agreed to phase out indoor smoking by December 2022, paying $12.5 million towards the Bergin inquiry’s costs and a casino supervisory levy of $5 million in fiscal year 2021 and 2022.
The levy will be subject to further consultation with ILGA for 2023.
“The authority will await the report from the independent monitor and the result of the financial accounts audit, before making a final decision on suitability,” he said.
Mr Crawford said all senior executive positions were being filled by candidates with relevant expertise and experience, and independent audits were under way on several aspects of Crown’s operations.
The measures are part of an exhaustive overhaul of Crown as it tries to win back favour to open the Barangaroo casino.
The gambling industry faces potential headwinds with mounting pressure from regulators to face up to money laundering and problem gambling.
ILGA’s discussions with Australia’s giant casino operators could spill into regulation of pubs and clubs, which could affect Woolworths which is aiming to spin off its pokies and drinks group, Endeavour, as a separate company this year.
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