Crown Australia, once the crown jewel of gambling in Australia, has lost a lot of its luster this year after a number of damning reports about its operations continued to surface. A whistleblower revealed about two years ago that at least one of Crown’s properties had monkeyed with machines in order to cheat gamblers and that was just the tip of the iceberg. Since then, everything from illegal partnerships to massive money laundering to gambling war criminals has continued to shake Crown’s foundation to the point that it has been called “unsuitable” to hold a gambling license. Better late than never, Crown is finally addressing the issue and has created a new compliance division that should have been in place years ago.
To head the new division, Crown turned to the National Australia Bank. It recruited the financial institution’s Chief Financial Crime Risk Officer and Group Money Laundering Reporting Officer, Steven Blackburn, to be the casino operator’s Chief Compliance and Financial Crimes Officer in hopes that it can avoid any additional negative fallout from the litany of ongoing scandals. Crown is being investigated by the New South Wales (NSW) Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) over “failures in Crown’s culture, its risk management and compliance processes” that threaten its ability to retain a gaming license.
The ILGA is expected to make a determination on Crown’s suitability by February 1, and Blackburn is scheduled to start his new assignment a month later. He will report directly to the company’s CEO, Ken Barton, as well as to the Crown Board of Directors, which is likely to see several changes between now and then. Crown has already been denied the opportunity to launch the Crown Sydney, which had been scheduled to open this month, and will have to put its efforts into overdrive if it wants to show regulators it can properly toe the line.
Barton says of Blackburn’s appointment, “I am very pleased Steven has agreed to join Crown. This appointment is a further significant step forward in strengthening our compliance and anti-money laundering functions. Steven is an experienced compliance executive and his substantial technical expertise and global perspectives will position him well to take a leadership role in driving further improvements through the business.”
It will be interesting to see what, if anything, Blackburn uncovers at Crown. As the head of the financial crime division at National Australia Bank, he has overseen all financial crime control and reporting activity, as well as compliance of all of the firm’s global operations. He is undoubtedly knowledgeable of all the tricks and methods that might be employed to fool regulators, and shouldn’t have difficulty identify troublesome activity. However, since he doesn’t start until next March, a lot can happen between now and then.