Gambling with Governance: The Bergin Report

The Report of the Inquiry under section 143 of the Casino Control Act 1992 (NSW) (aka the Bergin Inquiry Report) is a comprehensive investigation conducted by former Supreme Court Judge, Patricia Bergin SC, into Crown Resorts Limited, the parent company of Crown Sydney Gaming Pty Ltd (Crown Casino). The two-volume report was released in February 2021, and it details a wide range of serious problems at the casino, including money laundering, links to organised crime, and poor governance practices.

One of the key findings of the Report is that Crown Casino had been used as a conduit for money laundering by organised crime affiliates. The Report found that the casino had weak anti-money laundering controls in place, and that staff had failed to properly identify and report suspicious transactions. This allowed criminal groups to use the casino to launder large sums of money through continuing relationships with junket operators who had such links. The Report estimates that tens of millions of dollars may have been laundered through the casino in recent years.

The Report also found that Crown Casino had close ties to organised crime, with a number of individuals with known links to organised crime having been granted access to the casino. This included high-rolling gamblers who were known to be involved in money laundering and other criminal activities.

Another major issue identified in the Report was the poor governance practices at the casino. The Report found that the board of directors at Crown Casino had failed to properly oversee the management of the casino, and that there were significant conflicts of interest among its directors.

In response of these findings, the Report identifies 19 recommendations to address these shortcomings and look to improve the governance and operations of both the casino itself, and the broader gambling industry. Of particular note, the recommendations we highlight include the following:

  • the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee the casino’s compliance with anti-money laundering laws and regulations;
  • the implementation of stronger anti-money laundering controls,; and
  • the appointment of an independent board of directors.

Overall, the Bergin Report paints a disturbing picture of serious problems at the Crown Casino, independently demonstrating the need for significant changes to internal management and governance practices, as well as external sector regulatory reforms. The Report’s recommendations, if implemented, could help address not only these issues, but also work towards improving the integrity of Crown Casino and the broader gambling industry in Australia. We note that the NSW Government have agreed to support all 19 recommendations as of August 2021.

Despite the above, it is worth noting that the Crown Casino has denied all recorded allegations and claims that the Report is “one-sided.” The casino has also announced they will be challenging the recommendations of the Report.

UPDATE: In addition to Crown Casino Sydney, fellow operating subsidiary companies, Crown Casino Melbourne in 2021 and Crown Casino Perth in 2022, were also told to ‘show their hands’ as part of their own inquiries following the Bergin Report’s findings into its parent company.

Both inquiry reports corroborated the findings of the Bergin Report, pertaining that the two additional casinos were found to also be unsuitable to hold gambling licences due to engaging in operating conduct, described in a word as ‘disgraceful’, but ultimately were variously illegal, dishonest, unethical and exploitative.

As a result of these inquiries and their reforms, many a watchful eye will be on the gambling sector in Australia, making it all that much harder to walk or run away from when the dealing’s done.

*NB. Content originally created by artificial intelligence (ChatGPT), but reviewed and scrutinized by human intelligence (Camren Cutuli).

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