Famed English chef to head Crown Sydney eatery

By William Brown Updated
Royal commission hears that Crown was reluctant to implement tighter money laundering controls

Respected English chef Clare Smyth – whose Notting Hill fine-diner Core by Clare Smyth has two Michelin stars – will launch a restaurant at the new Crown Sydney tower next year.

Broadsheet reports that Smyth worked with Gordon Ramsay for 13 years, becoming the only female chef in the UK to run a three-Michelin-starred restaurant, before opening Core in 2017.

She also catered Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s private wedding reception and was named the world’s best female chef in 2018 by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants committee.

Core by Clare Smyth is known for its use of local, sustainable and seasonal produce, and Smyth will bring the same ethos to her as-yet unnamed Sydney venture.

Having lived, worked and travelled in Australia early in her career, she says she has an understanding of the country and will focus on produce from the harbour and its surrounds at the Barangaroo venue.

She plans to do further travel around Australia’s food and wine regions to inform her menu.

The restaurant is one of 14 that will launch at the casino and hotel complex, which is slated to open next year, and will have a combination of local and international culinary talent on deck.

The casino’s tower will be the tallest building in Sydney, standing at 271 metres, with 75 floors.

It will include 349 hotel rooms and suites, luxury apartments, retail outlets, a pool and spa, conference rooms and VIP gaming facilities.

The $2.4 billion high-roller Crown Sydney on the banks of Barangaroo has been shrouded in controversy since it was given the green light by the New South Wales government in 2013.

Many people opposed the development of Sydney’s second casino, arguing it would increase problem gambling and money laundering.

Critics also objected to the local government’s decision to authorise the transfer of a prime harbour-front site to a private business and the decision to build a second casino.

Its design was delayed a number of years, with the government insisting on additions such as increasing the size of a public park and giving additional access to a viewing platform, among other issues.

An inquiry by the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority began on January 21 of this year to look into a number of issues, including whether it had links to organised crime and if the $8 billion-group had breached its licence.

Crown’s sale to Melco not flagged and could be licence breach

Crown Resorts’ failure to alert authorities about a sale of shares to the Macau-based Melco International before the deal was announced publicly could be a breach of its casino licence and raises questions about Crown’s suitability as a casino operator, the counsel assisting a New South Wales inquiry into the casino giant, Adam Bell SC, has said.

The Guardian reported last week that the inquiry, which began on two weeks ago, is expected to call the billionaire businessman James Packer and the Melco International chairman, Lawrence Ho.

It is also expected to hear from a raft of Crown and Melco executives as it seeks to probe whether both Crown and Melco are suitable to exercise control over the high-roller casino licence at Barangaroo in Sydney granted in 2014.

The inquiry was sparked by last year’s announcement that Melco plans to buy 19.9 per cent of Crown from Packer’s CPH Holdings and by allegations of money laundering and the involvement of organised crime in Crown’s Melbourne casino made in the Nine newspapers.

The former supreme court judge Patricia Bergin SC held an open hearing initially, but the inquiry gets under way in earnest on 24 February, when it will begin the first part of its investigation.

This will look into the vulnerability of casinos to money laundering and the role of junkets and links to organised crime.

A second tranche of hearings is scheduled for March and will look into the sale agreement with Melco and whether the transfer of shares would give rise to any breach of the licence.

A third set of hearings will look into allegations made in the Nine publications about Crown’s involvement with money laundering and organised crime, while two final blocks of the inquiry will look at Melco and the suitability of any close associates, and strengthening future regulation.

In his opening remarks, Bell said Crown had not alerted the casino authority about the CPH-Melco deal ahead of time in order to allow it to assess the suitability of the new shareholder.

Crown said it wasn’t aware of shareholding sale by CPH Holdings

Crown has said it was not aware of the share sale by its largest shareholder, CPH Holdings, to Melco until the sale was announced publicly.

This is despite CPH having four directors on the Crown board.

The NSW Casino Control Act requires a licence holder to alert state authorities ahead of time if a new person proposes to become a “close associate” of the holder of the licence so that authorities can assess whether they are of good repute and do not have any business associations that would raise issues.

Bell argued that the NSW act required commissioner Bergin to take a very wide view of who were close associates and that it was not limited to shareholding or directorships, but also financial power and influence over a casino’s operation.

Lawrence Ho’s Melco group raises particular questions because of his father, Stanley Ho, whose STDM group had a monopoly over gaming in Macau until 2000.

Stanley Ho has been linked by casino regulators in New Jersey to triads and organised crime, Bell said.

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