Crown Resorts Inquiry Looks Into Possible Casino License Breach

  • Investigation being led by the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority
  • Sparked off in 2019 with reports of Melco's share purchasing plans and criminal allegations
  • James Packer and Lawrence Ho likely to be called to give evidence
  • Interests of Lawrence's father, Stanley Ho, being questioned
businessman in suit holding ripped contract document
An inquiry is looking into Crown Resorts’ possible casino license breach after it failed to inform the relevant authorities of the sale of shares to Melco International. [Image:]

Crown’s suitability questioned

Crown Resorts may be in breach of its casino license after failing to inform the authorities of its sale of shares to Macau-based Melco International, according to a New South Wales inquiry.

James Packer and Melco International chair Lawrence Ho will be called to give evidence

The inquiry, led by the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority, kicked off on Tuesday. It will determine whether the two entities are suitable to hold the license at Barangaroo in Sydney, which was granted in 2014, reports The Guardian.

Crown’s business mogul James Packer and Melco International chair Lawrence Ho will be called to give evidence.

The inquiry was prompted last year following reports that Melco was planning to purchase 19.9 per cent of Crown from Packer’s CPH Holdings. There were also a number of allegations of money laundering and the involvement of organized crime.

Interests of Stanley Ho

The counsel assisting the inquiry, Adam Bell SC, reportedly said in his opening remarks that Crown failed to alert the casino authority about the CPH-Melco deal. With no time to determine the suitability of the new shareholder, it subsequently questioned Crown’s suitability.

The NSW Casino Control Act requires a license holder to inform authorities if a new person intends to become a “close associate” of the license holder. This is so that the authorities can determine whether they have any links that might raise concerns.

Lawrence Ho’s father is Stanley Ho, whose STDM group controlled the gaming industry in Macau until 2000. Bell noted that casino regulators in New Jersey had linked Stanley to organized crime and triads.

The inclusion of special conditions prior to the granting of the Sydney Bangaroo license prevented Stanley and his 59 companies from being linked as “close associates” of the casino. At the time, Lawrence was deemed a suitable person to be connected with Crown Resorts.

However, Bell and fellow associate Naomi Sharp SC are questioning the limits of that investigation. They maintain a more detailed probe into the Melco group and Stanley Ho is necessary.

Hearings in the pipeline

Former supreme court judge Patricia Bergin SC held an opening hearing yesterday, with the inquiry expected to resume on February 24. The investigation will look into the vulnerability of casinos, particularly in relation to money laundering and organized crime.

A second set of hearings scheduled for March will review the sale agreement with Melco and question the possibility of a casino license breach.

Additional hearings on the allegations made against Crown Resorts for money laundering and organized crime involvement are also set to take place.

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