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China Scandals Put Crown Resorts’ Sydney Casino License at Risk

China Scandals Put Crown Resorts’ Sydney Casino License at Risk

SYDNEY—The jets that landed in Australia from China were made to look inconspicuous: no corporate logos to indicate that wealthy gamblers were inside.

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SYDNEY—The jets that landed in Australia from China were made to look inconspicuous: no corporate logos to indicate that wealthy gamblers were inside.

According to a report released by an Australian regulator Tuesday, it was a deliberate attempt by an executive at Australian casino operator Crown Resorts Ltd. to evade the Chinese government, which in early 2015 had announced a crackdown on foreign casinos recruiting Chinese high-rollers to gamble overseas.

The plan didn’t work, and Chinese police later arrested 19 Crown employees, accusing them of gambling-related crimes. Tuesday’s report said Crown disregarded the welfare of its employees in China by pursuing lucrative high-rollers even as the Chinese police were closing in, and concluded that Crown isn’t suitable to hold a license for a new casino in Sydney without making significant changes to its corporate culture.

The 751-page report, based on 60 days of public hearings that included Crown executives, offers an unusually in-depth look at the inner workings of an industry that has a reputation for being anything but transparent. The report also found that bank accounts at Crown’s subsidiaries were used to launder money. In addition, Crown worked with so-called junket operators in Asia to bring high-rollers to Australia, even after learning of allegations in media reports and the company’s own due diligence that those groups had ties to organized crime, the report said.

As early as 2014, Crown’s bankers raised warnings of suspicious deposits in its bank accounts, such as multiple deposits on the same day by the same person at different branches in the same city, the report said. But Crown at the time didn’t change how the bank accounts operated or were monitored, the report said. Account details were given to Crown patrons, whose deposits would be credited to their account at the relevant casino.

This post first appeared on wsj.com

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