“The fixed room of Suncity will be discontinued here,” Mr Bekier said on Friday of The Star casino. “They had a small fixed room. That room is being closed.”
Star’s announcement comes after Crown’s high-profile board of directors took out public advertisements backing the company’s relationship with Suncity and other junket operators.
The decision to shut down its fixed gaming salons and withdraw its staff follows revelations by The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes that the head of Suncity, Alvin Chau, had been barred from entering Australia by the Department of Home Affairs.
Mr Bekier would not comment on the extent to which Star, Australia’s second-biggest casino company, would continue to have dealings with Suncity following the closure of the room.
When asked last week why The Star was still using Suncity, Bekier replied: “Why not?”
“Suncity is the largest junket operator in the world and we work in a very a prescribed and lawful way with junkets that are credible and have been approved, in some states, by the regulators.”
In response to the allegations about Suncity, a spokeswoman for Suncity, Maggie Tang, said: “Suncity Group started to cooperate with Crown since 2014, and we are now operating one VIP Club in Crown Melbourne.”
Suncity offers VIP services such as transportation and accommodation arrangement to our guests who would like to travel to Melbourne, and Crown Melbourne.”
Leaked reports from the Hong Kong Jockey Club obtained by The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes reveal club officials were briefed by “Australian Law Enforcement” in May 2017 about their concerns about Suncity. Among the concerns was suspected “large-scale money laundering activities”.
The report also states that “Suncity Group’s controlling entities … pose tangible criminal and reputational risks to the [Hong Kong Jockey] club and indeed racing integrity in Hong Kong.”
Suncity key personalities have demonstrated links to numerous triad societies and organised crime figures,” said the intelligence report.
Mr Bekier said Star had “comprehensive” anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing programs, and worked closely with law enforcement authorities.
Efforts to contact Crown and Suncity on Friday were unsuccessful.
The closure of Suncity’s rooms comes as multiple state and federal inquiries have been launched into the casino industry following revelations by The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes that Crown Resorts, Australia’s biggest casino company, had gone into business with several junket operators backed by powerful Asian crime gangs and Chinese foreign influence agents.
Last week, the New South Wales gaming watchdog announced an independent examination of Crown’s junket connections, to be headed by a former Supreme Court judge, with hearings to be held be held in public.
Concerns over the infiltration of organised crime in casinos are also the subject of a wide-ranging investigation by the nation’s peak criminal intelligence agency, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC).
“The lack of transparency of casino junket operations, anonymity of participants and obscurity around beneficial ownership, source and distribution of junket funds provide opportunities for criminal exploitation,” said Michael Phelan of the ACIC.
Crown has said would “fully cooperate” with inquiries. The company has described recent reporting by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes on its business as “unbalanced and sensationalised”, based on “unsubstantiated allegations, exaggerations, unsupported connections and outright falsehoods”.
In response to reports about Suncity, Crown has previously defended its use of the junket operator in full-page newspaper advertisements, pointing out that the company was listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and operated globally.
Mr Bekier on Friday said the recent scrutiny surrounding the alleged crime links to junket operators had been damaging to Star’s share price, but said Star had not been implicated in many of the regulatory and law enforcement investigations examining Crown.
“In terms of the regulatory action, we have not really been caught in the same inquiries that others have,” he said. “The ACIC for example, we have not had any contact from them.”
Business reporter for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.
Nick McKenzie is an investigative reporter for The Age. He’s won seven Walkley awards and covers politics, business, foreign affairs and defence, human rights issues, the criminal justice system and social affairs.