Crown Resorts Pressured to Delay Opening of Sydney Casino
Pressure is being placed on Crown Resorts to delay the opening of a new Sydney casino due to licensing suitability investigation.
To be able to offer casino gaming in a legalized setting, licensing is required. Around the world, operators go through a rigorous licensing process to be approved to offer operations in specific areas. In Australia, Crown Resorts is a big-time gaming operator, with a new casino set to open in Sydney in the aera of Barangaroo. However, despite the venue set to open in December, the company’s ability to hold a license is in question. Because of this, certain officials are trying to get Crown to wait on the new venue’s opening.
Encouraged to Wait
Crown Resorts is working on a $2 billion high roller casino and hotel in Sydney that is set to open on December 14. During a meeting two weeks ago, the opening date was confirmed. A major inquiry is taking place into the suitability of Crown Resorts to hold a license and the inquiry will not come to an end until February 1. Because of this, the operator is being encouraged to wait on the opening.
Government ministers in New South Wales as well as the chair of the inquiry into the casino, Patricia Bergin SC, have hinted that the operator should delay the opening. Victor Dominello, the minister responsible for gaming, said that he is receiving regular updates from the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) on the matter.
He is encouraged by a meeting set for November 18 in which the conditions of the Crown Sydney opening will be resolved. At the meeting, the Authority will consider the opening of the facility. This could include a limited or restricted opening for the property.
Naomi Sharp SC is the counsel assisting in the case, who said that the steps Crown has taken to solve the problems that were identified are essentially too little too late. Final submissions were provided by Sharp that said the Crown Sydney is not suitable for licensing and that Crown Resorts is not suitable to be associated with the licensee.
A key factor in the decision by Sharp was what is being called the culture of Crown Resorts. In a statement, Sharp said that Crown Resorts failed to act meaningfully on the longstanding allegations involving junket operators. This failure promotes a culture of denial and arrogant indifference to regulatory compliance.
The ILGA could decide next week to suspend the license of the operator or tell the Crown they cannot open. The casino operator already has a license but must be considered suitable on a continual basis. While the outcome may be negative, it seems that the operator has plans to open regardless.
Several shortcomings of the operator will be considered during the upcoming meeting. This includes the activity in China from 2016 that resulted in 19 staff members being arrested. The sale of shares in 2019 to Melco Resorts is being considered as it was a breach of the license in Sydney.
The Crown Melbourne and Perth venues have been found to be failing in anti-money laundering systems and the relationship with James Packer, a major shareholder, has had a negative effect on the company and will also be under consideration.
Neil Young SC is the counsel for the Crown who says that he will not conclude submissions in rebuttal of the allegations just yet. The ILGA meeting will take place before he has finished building his case. Advisors for Crown Resorts seem to be split on how the issues need to be handled. Some want the operator to be conciliatory while others want to see the company take a harder, legal approach. We shall see in the coming days how this is dealt with and if the new casino in Sydney will be allowed to open.