This week, the Victoria Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) tabled its annual report in the state parliament, showing it did not attempt to contact employees of Crown Resorts who were arrested in China, until after one of them appeared on TV two years into the regulator’s investigation.
More Criticism for the Watchdog Likely
The watchdog’s investigation which has been underway since 2017 and barely achieved any progress and is still incomplete would raise further criticism for the regulator and its ineptitude to deal with the casino operator, some going even further to claim VCGLR are worse than useless and captured by Crown.
The VCGLR is responsible for the oversight of Crown casino in Melbourne, the biggest establishment of the operator, for which the ongoing investigation by the gaming regulator in New South Wales (NSW), the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA), revealed was in close relations to Suncity, a junket operator with links to Chinese organized crime.
19 employees of Crown Resorts based in China were arrested in October 2016 on allegations of promoting gambling in breach of local law, and 16 of them spent between 9 and 10 months in jail, but VCGLR staff did attempted to interview anyone of them until after the case was aired by Nine Entertainment in 2019, and Jenny Jiang, a Crown employee, featured in the broadcasting.
Crown Refused to Provide Documents
The VCGLR report further stated that its investigation was stalled by Crown’s initial refusal to release a large number of documents relating to the case, citing legal professional privilege. VCGLR requested to assess whether the information published in the reports regarding Crown’s links to organized crime were related to the case of staff imprisonment.
It was only this year when Crown agreed to release the documents, and the investigation is still ongoing due to the large volume of the new material. In addition, VCGLR sought other lines of collecting additional relevant information and evidence to conclude its investigation, including close contact with AUSTRAC, to tighten the casino’s AML practices.
VCGLR’s Own Failures
The annual report of the gambling regulator also revealed its own failings in terms of meeting recommendations made by the Victorian auditor general’s office. Out of 17 recommendations which were issued 3 years ago and reinforced in a follow-up report last year, VCGLR still fails to implement 5, among which the requirement to improve the supervision of the casino “by defining key risks regarding casino operations and linking regulatory work performed by VCGLR and other co-regulators to mitigate such risks”.