Crown unfit to keep Sydney casino licence, inquiry told

A public inquiry into Crown Resorts has been told that the gambling giant is unfit to operate a casino in NSW and that the damaging influence of its billionaire backer James Packer is one of the key reasons for its unsuitability.

Counsel assisting Adam Bell, SC, told the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority inquiry into Crown on Wednesday that the group was not a “suitable person” to hold the licence to its new $2.2 billion casino at Barangaroo, which is due to open in December.

James Packer gave evidence to the inquiry last month.
James Packer gave evidence to the inquiry last month.Credit:

“We submit that the evidence presented to this inquiry demonstrates that the licensee is not a suitable person to continue to give affect to the licence and that Crown Resorts is not a suitable person to be a close associate of the licensee,” Mr Bell told Commissioner Patricia Bergin at the start of his final submissions to the inquiry.

The powerful probe was launched in August last year in response to a series of reports into Crown’s dealings by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes.


It has examined Crown’s failure to prevent money laundering at its Melbourne and Perth casinos; how the company went into business with figures linked to powerful Asian organised crime gangs, and how it put its staff at risk in China before 19 employees were arrested there in 2016.

The inquiry, which has the same powers as a royal commission, has also examined whether Crown’s NSW licence was violated when Mr Packer’s private company Consolidated Press Holdings (CPH) agreed to sell a 19.9 per cent stake in Crown to Hong Kong’s Melco Resorts for $1.7 billion last year.

Mr Bell said a “common theme” across both the China arrests and the Melco transaction was the “deleterious impact on the governance of Crown Resorts caused by its dominant shareholder, CPH and ultimately Mr Packer”.

“It’s submitted that the impact of that influence put Crown Resorts in breach of its regulatory agreements with the authority. The adverse impact of CPH in compromising proper reporting lines of Crown Resorts was a factor leading to the China arrests,” Mr Bell said.

“In those instances the adverse impact of CPH and Mr Packer, we submit, was ultimately harmful to the public interest, which is a primary object of the Casino Control Act to protect.”

More to come

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