Up in the air
Crown Resorts is delaying the opening of its new casino in Barangaroo, Sydney as the New South Wales (NSW) Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) announced it would withhold operating licenses amid an ongoing inquiry.
concerns about Crown’s suitability to run the casino facility
The gaming authority stated on Wednesday that it still has concerns about Crown’s suitability to run the casino facility, and that evidence from the probe into the company is “extremely concerning”.
The inquiry is looking into Crown Resorts’ suitability to hold a gaming license in Sydney, with a findings report set for a February 1 release. The ILGA requested that Crown delay the opening of the luxurious AU$2.2bn (US$1.6bn) Barangaroo gambling facility from its planned mid-December date until it reviews the findings of Commissioner Patricia Bergin’s report.
According to the ILGA, allowing the Sydney casino to launch before the report’s publication would “pose unacceptable risks on the community against the public interest.” The Crown Resorts board has therefore agreed to postpone the casino’s inauguration date.
Various permits, checks pending
During a meeting on Wednesday, the ILGA heard submissions from Crown Resorts about why it should be able to open some Sydney gaming operations in December. Crown already has a gaming license but it requires additional approvals from the gaming authority, including liquor licenses, probity checks on certain directors, and gaming floor area approval.
ILGA chairman Philip Crawford told reporters after the meeting that the authority hoped Crown Resorts would comply with the launch delay request. He expressed disappointment that the casino giant didn’t itself decide to postpone the opening, adding: “There is a lot of serious stuff floating around.”
The ILGA is open to Crown seeking approval to kick off its restaurant and hotel operations at the Sydney casino, but it will not allow gaming activity to start. In a subsequent statement, Crown confirmed it would continue focusing on its non-gaming business at Crown Sydney in consultation with the ILGA.
The 75-floor casino on the Sydney waterfront aims to attract wealthy gamblers from across Asia. However, the ILGA will not consider important factors such as limits on minimum bets and the casino’s VIP membership policy while the inquiry is underway.
A long-running inquiry
The inquiry in question has been ongoing for some time. The counsel assisting the inquiry has already advised the ILGA that Crown Resorts is not suitable to hold a casino license.
allegations of money laundering and links to organized crime
Major shareholder James Packer’s actions were a primary focus of the probe. There were numerous failings throughout the company over many years, including allegations of money laundering and links to organized crime. The counsel deemed Packer an unsuitable associate for a casino licensee.
Crown Resorts admitted in new statements submitted to the inquiry at 11pm on Tuesday that, “more likely than not”, money had laundering occurred. In response to this admission, Commissioner Bergin suggested that the operator had wasted taxpayers’ money in taking so long to concede that there was evidence of potential money laundering.
The casino company said it has been taking steps to improve its anti-money laundering processes since the inquiry began. It also recently agreed to stop dealing with junket operators until they have authorization from “all gaming regulators in the states in which Crown operates.”