Crown Resorts is on its way to secure a license to open its Sydney casino, more than a year after it was considered to be “unfit” by the NSW gaming regulator, in a plan that would see the brand get a conditional license for a specified period with the possibility of becoming fully accredited, ABC reports. To this end, the state cabinet will meet Monday to decide on the future of this plan.
After a year-long investigation launched by the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA), the company was considered “unsuitable” to hold a gambling license for Barangaroo Casino in 2021. Commissioner Patricia Bergin said at the end of the investigation that Crown needed to make “drastic cultural changes” if it was to be considered a suitable operator in the future.
This meant that the opening of the casino component of Crown’s skyscraper on Sydney Harbor was blocked. However, the building’s hotel and restaurants were free to operate.
Now the company, whose shareholders already approved the Blackstone’s takeover bid, seems to have regained its confidence, as it is announcing a number of Sydney-based gaming positions, suggesting the opening of the casino will actually become a reality: from “experienced table game dealers” and a general manager of games, ads posted online are calling on new people who want to join the staff.
As reported by The Wopets, Deputy Prime Minister Paul Toole has stated he would take advice on the proposal: “It is a decision of the regulator and it is certainly the authority and it is the body that is independently identified to undertake this assessment of the casino”.
Crown Resorts made new commitments with ILGA in an effort to finally open the casino, including plans to pay part of the investigation costs, a casino oversight tax, end all international junket partnerships, adopt a cashless gaming model and phase out indoor smoking.
A few days after Crown Melbourne was fined $57 million (AUD 80 million) for a scheme allowing the illegal transfer of funds from China, Macau-based casino analyst, Ben Lee, stated that if the plan was greenlit, it would make the gambling license “a total farce”, and stated that for a newcomer to be granted a license when he has been convicted for wrongdoing “is a travesty”.
Lee added that the Chinese government’s anti-gambling regulatory intervention implied the VIP market had shrunk since the casino was first introduced by billionaire James Packer in 2012, and explained that the fact that the Chinese market has totally disappeared “means that the business case for having a second casino, especially one as high end as Barangaroo, is no longer there”.
The investigation conducted by Bergin revealed that Crown operated two subsidiary bank accounts as part of its VIP gambling operation, which were later found to have facilitated money laundering. Packer, who owns 37% of the company, agreed to step down following the investigation.
Even though the Perth Casino Royal Commission concluded earlier this year that Crown was not fit to hold Western Australia’s only gambling license, the commission refrained from demanding that it be stripped of its license, saying the company should undertake remediation work to become fit and called for the creation of an independent monitor.
Last month, Crown shareholders backed the American firm Blackstone’s acquisition of the company for $6.3 billion. Should the Court approve the transaction, the scheme will then become legally effective, and Crown shares will be suspended from trading on the ASX.
The scheme calls for Blackstone to acquire all shares in Crown from shareholders for AUD 13.10 cash per share. The amount offered by the firm represents a significant premium and uplift in value from an earlier offer made in March 2021, and follows three earlier proposals from Blackstone.