Denial, disgrace, rebirth. These are the three phases that Australia’s two most powerful casino firms, Crown Resorts and Star Entertainment, have been through after they were separately exposed by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes as hubs of dodgy financial dealings and appalling governance.
The denial phase involves fierce rebuttals of the initial media revelations. In 2019, Crown published full page advertisements savaging revelations of their wrongdoing. It also briefed friendly reporters to pour cold water over the reports, including that Crown had hopped into bed with organised criminals and allowed huge sums of money to move across borders in a manner that may have facilitated money laundering.
Star followed suit last October, describing this masthead’s reports that it had the same problems as Crown as “misleading.” Star also briefed friendly reporters. But, as with Crown’s public denials of its rotten conduct, the only thing misleading was Star’s attempt to downplay the significance of its own wrongdoing.
Phase two is disgrace. After the initial media reports triggered public inquiries, Crown was forced to admit a staggering array of appalling conduct. Crown executives quit, the board was cleaned out, its major shareholder James Packer forced to divest and royal commissioners declared Crown unfit to hold casino licences.
Star has just entered its disgrace phase, thanks to the ongoing Bell Inquiry in NSW confirming key aspects of this masthead’s original stories about its Sydney casino. Last October, we revealed the existence of a damning 2018 KPMG report that found that Star, under the watch of then chief executive Matt Bekier, was failing to adequately combat money laundering. We also revealed how Star was using a China debit card rort to help high rollers smuggle funds out of China.
On Monday, Bekier quit his post.
But don’t be mistaken that his resignation is an indicator of a company committed to corporate standards. If it was, he would have quit months ago, when the reports of misconduct were first aired. Star knows, based on Crown’s experience, that if it is to retain its casino licences, it needs to put some high-ranking heads on sticks.
The Crown scandal has made clear that our big casino firms are too big to fail. Regulators and commissions of inquiry appear to have adopted a stance that as long as the casino firm in question is appropriately disgraced and key executives and directors removed, the gaming company can be rebirthed.
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