Former regulator urges Crown to reconsider Sydney casino opening date

By William Brown Updated
Crown Sydney appoints operations veteran to run its new venture

Crown Resorts has no alternative but to postpone the opening of its new Sydney casino until an inquiry into the gambling giant’s suitability to hold a casino licence is known.

ABC reports the former ctrhairman of NSW’s gambilng watchdog, Chris Sidoti, said Crown should not open its Barangaroo casino until the inquiry hands down its findings in February.

“It would be a provocative act,” he said.

“It’s an act of bad faith to proceed with that opening when this inquiry is nearing its end.

“I would see it as an indicator that there’s been no significant change in the culture…a culture of the pursuit of profit at all costs.”

The inquiry, headed by Commissioner Patricia Bergin, is examining whether Crown should keep its casino licence in NSW following allegations the company turned a blind eye to money laundering, went into business with junket operators with links to Asian organised crime and put the safety of its staff in China at risk.

In their final submissions this week, counsel assisting the inquiry said the evidence showed Crown was not suitable to hold a casino licence in NSW and its billionaire shareholder James Packer should be banned from being closely involved with the new Sydney casino.

Mr Sidoti said the evidence presented at the inquiry had been “extremely surprising.”

“I don’t think anybody could have imagined, at least I didn’t imagine, that the internal governance of Crown was so bad,” he said.

“I suspect this will be a wake up call for regulators in Australia that they and retrospectively I include myself in this, need to be far more diligent.”

The former leader of the Liberal Party John Hewson said the government inquiry should intervene and stop Crown from opening.

“This has been a very controversial licence from the beginning,” he said.

“For the process to have been initiated without a proper public tender and a competitive process, favoured treatment to Packer and his team.

“It’s time for somebody to stand up and say what they think is right here.”

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she is seeking urgent advice on whether the opening should proceed.

It is understood that the ILGA is taking legal advice on what, if anything, it can do to intervene.

Mr Sidoti said it was ultimately Crown’s responsibility to make the call.

“I don’t think the authority can act without some kind of recommendation from the Commissioner and the Commissioner is entitled to wait until February, that’s her deadline,” he said.

“Crown is a privileged corporation in this country and that places a higher obligation beyond even legal obligations towards the broader community.

“I think it’s a breach of those kinds of community responsibilities for it to proceed to opening in Sydney while the Commissioner is completing her report.

“It raises further issues about governance.

“The corporation is lacking in self awareness.”

Inquiry deems Crown not suitable to hold Sydney casino licence 

Crown Resorts has been deemed not suitable to hold the licence for its soon-to-be-opened casino in inner Sydney.

The ABC reported in early November that the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority has been examining the conduct of Crown in its current casinos in Melbourne and Perth, including its international VIP gaming operations.

In his closing submissions, counsel assisting Adam Bell SC told the inquiry he believed Crown was not suitable to hold the licence for the new Barangaroo premises.

“In summary, we submit that the evidence presented to this inquiry demonstrates that the licensee is not a suitable person to continue to give effect to the licence and that Crown Resorts is not a suitable person to be a close associate of the licensee,” he said.

The inquiry has raised serious allegations that the company ignored warning signs of money laundering within its casinos, partnered with junket operators despite their links to organised crime and ignored the safety of their staff in China, who were technically working illegally.

Mr Bell highlighted the arrest of the employees in China four years ago as a significant factor in the company’s failures.

Nineteen employees were arrested and charged for promoting gambling to source VIPs for its high-roller business, 16 who were eventually imprisoned in a Chinese prison.

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