James Packer, boss of Australian casino operator Crown Resorts, has established a new philanthropic foundation that intends to give away AUD $200m (US $188m). The National Philanthropic Fund will be funded by 10 annual installments of $20m, half provided by Crown and the rest from the Packer family. The Fund’s distributions will be split between arts programs and those intended to benefit indigenous education and community welfare. Packer, whose personal fortune has been estimated at $6b, credited his sister Gretel as the “driving force” behind the Fund’s inception.
Crown’s first Fund contribution might well come via the $10m it’s seeking to collect from a recalcitrant high-rolling gambler. Six years ago, Crown Melbourne extended $6.5m of casino credit to Shanghai resident Yan Li Yan, who asked for this limit to be raised to $10m just a week later. Over the course of a weekend in July 2008, Yan ran up a marker worth $9.6m, which Crown gave him 20 days to pay. But nearly 2,200 days later, Yan has so far made no effort to make good on his debts, prompting Crown to file suit in Victoria Supreme Court this week.
As befitting a casino operator with a focus on Asian baccarat whales, Crown’s docket is full of similar cases, including the suit it launched against Zhao Li in May of this year, after the Chinese national reneged on the nearly $8m marker he’d run up at Crown Melbourne back in 2011.
In June, court proceedings involving another high-roller offered a glimpse into the perks Aussie casinos dole out to lure big spenders. Pete Han Hoang was arrested in a Crown Melbourne toilet in 2012 allegedly carrying $1.5m of what police claim was the proceeds of crime. The 36-year-old former Vietnam resident Hoang came to Australia as a refugee in the late 1990s yet hadn’t filed a tax return in 12 years and had received over $50k in social assistance benefits from the state. Yet somehow Hoang found the means to wager over $90m at Aussie casinos, $8m of which he reportedly left behind at Crown Melbourne.
In April, Hoang was deemed a flight risk and denied a request to return to Vietnam to visit family. During last month’s committal hearing, Crown Melbourne VIP host Jennifer Nguyen told Melbourne Magistrates Court that Hoang and his entourage was shuttled to and from the airport on Crown’s dime and also provided free accommodation, booze and food. Hoang also received a kickback of $6.5k for every $1m he wagered at the casino, resulting in a $79k payout after he wagered over $13m during one stint. Not surprisingly, Nguyen called Hoang “probably one of the [casino’s] best patrons from Sydney.”