Crown Sydney Will Open as Planned But Without Gaming
The Crown Sydney Casino of Crown Resorts will open this December, but without gaming services, a huge blow to the company.
For the past few weeks, it was unclear as to if the Crown Sydney Casino would be opening this month. The casino property cost $1.6 billion to create and is owned by Crown Resorts. A review of the operator has been taking place for quite some time and officials have asked the operator to wait to open until the review is completed. Now, it seems that the Crown Sydney will go ahead as planned with its grand opening on December 27, but there will be no casino gaming.
Earlier this week, the New South Wales regulator, known as ILGA, announced that the Crown Resorts was approved for an interim liquor license, which can be used for the hotel section of the property as well as its bars and a few restaurants. The liquor service license will come in handy as patrons will be disappointed that they cannot enjoy the casino just yet.
The gaming portion of the property will be put on hold, at least until this coming February. The review of the operator should be completed by that time and the ILGA can decide if it will be approving Crown Resorts for casino operations after it knows what was uncovered.
The public inquiry started months ago and is looking at the suitability of the operator to offer gaming in the state. In November, the ILGA approved several regulatory items that related to the gaming activities of the casino before the Bergin inquiry findings are released next year.
The ILGA was not ready to allow the casino to function. However, they did provide Crown with the ability to open the non-gaming aspects of the property. Entertainment areas, the hotel, bars and restaurants are all available for operation.
This is basically being considered a compromise. The casino operator cannot open fully, but they can at least begin offering some services to patrons. The ILGA also can consider it a win because the casino will not start offering services at all, until the inquiry is completed.
Controversial from the Start
The Crown Sydney project has been controversial from the very beginning. The property is located in the Barangaroo district of Sydney, Australia on the waterfront. It is the highest building in the city and critics feel that the initial license was provided to Crown Resorts way too easily in 2013.
Critics point out that a public consultation was lacking, especially considering how it would change the landscape of the city. The construction of the project was also delayed several times due to regulations involving planning and legal challenges.
With this recent suitability review, there is a chance that the operator will lose its casino operating license. The review is considering if Crown Resorts turned a blind eye towards criminal activity involving junket operators. The junkets worked to bring in high rollers from China to its gaming properties.
It is also being considered as to if the company ignored money laundering activity via its VIP segment. It has been suggested that such behavior was ignored due to the pursuit of profit. Helen Coonan, the chair of the Crown, admitted last month that the company had allowed money laundering activity, but it was blamed on the ineptitude of employees and not on the intent of acting in a criminal manner.
Patrician Bergin, the inquiry chair, is expected to give the recommendation on whether the Crown should be allowed to offer gaming services in Sydney by February 1. At that time, the ILGA will be able to have the final say and decide if licensing will remain or not. We shall stay tuned to see what happens in this case.