Crown Resorts is on the verge of securing a licence to finally open its Sydney casino 15 months after being deemed “unfit” by the NSW gaming regulator.
- Last year the Bergin inquiry said Crown needed to make sweeping cultural changes if it wanted to be a suitable operator
- The inquiry investigated incidents of money laundering and links to international criminal syndicates
- A prominent casino analyst says if Crown gets a licence now it would be a “travesty”
The plan, which has been confirmed by the ABC, would see Crown granted a conditional licence for a set period of time with the potential for it to become fully credentialed.
State cabinet will meet on Monday to decide whether to ratify the plan.
Last year, the gambling giant was found “unfit” to hold a gaming licence for the casino at Barangaroo after a year-long inquiry instigated by the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA).
At the conclusion of the inquiry, Commissioner Patricia Bergin said the company needed to make sweeping cultural changes if it wanted to be considered a suitable operator in the future.
Her decision meant the casino component of Crown’s $2.2 billion skyscraper on Sydney Harbour was blocked from opening, however, the hotel and restaurants within the building were free to operate.
But now it seems Crown is so confident the casino will finally open it is advertising a number of gaming positions based in Sydney.
The company is seeking “experienced table games dealers” and a general manager of gaming, according to advertisements posted online.
Crown Resorts has been contacted for comment.
Deputy Premier Paul Toole said he would take advice on the proposal.
“This is a decision of the regulator and certainly they’re the authority and they’re the body who are independently identified to actually undertake this assessment of the casino,” he said.
Last year, Crown Resorts made new commitments with the ILGA in a bid to finally open the casino.
The commitments included plans to pay a portion of the costs of the inquiry, paying a casino supervision levy, ceasing all international junket partnerships, adopting a cashless gaming model and phasing out indoor smoking.
Macau-based casino analyst Ben Lee said if the plan was given the green light, it would make gaming licensing a “total farce”.
“Where is the diligence that demands a totally clean background before being granted a casino licence?”
Mr Lee said anti-gambling regulatory intervention from the Chinese government meant the VIP market had diminished since the casino was first pitched by billionaire James Packer in 2012.
“The fact that the Chinese market has totally disappeared, and is never likely to return again means that the business justification for having a second casino, particularly one as high end as Barangaroo is no longer there.”
The Bergin Inquiry found Crown operated two subsidiary bank accounts as part of its VIP gaming operation, which were later found to have facilitated money laundering.
Mr Packer, who owns 37 per cent of Crown, agreed to step back from the company in the wake of the inquiry.
Earlier this year, the Perth casino royal commission found Crown was unsuitable to hold Western Australia’s only gaming licence.
However, the commission stopped short of calling for Crown to be stripped of its licence, saying the casino giant should undertake remediation work to become suitable, and calling for an independent monitor to be established.
In 2021, the Victorian royal commission into Crown found the casino guilty of “disgraceful” conduct and recommended it be stripped of its licence if it could not prove it had reformed itself by 2023.
Last month, Crown Melbourne was fined $80 million for a scheme that allowed the illegal transfer of funds from China.
Allegations of criminality within the casino’s operations were first raised publicly by an ABC Four Corners investigation in 2014 and again by Fairfax investigations five years later.
Last month, Crown shareholders backed an $8.9 billion sale of the company to the world’s largest global investment business, Blackstone.
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