Posted on: February 18, 2022, 10:53h.
Last updated on: February 18, 2022, 11:24h.
Starting next month, Crown Resorts’ $1.6 billion Crown Sydney might finally have an operational casino. A spokesperson for the New South Wales gaming regulator, ILGA, told Channel 7 News there that it “anticipated” that Crown could begin to offer gaming on a conditional basis within the next few weeks.
This does not mean ILGA believes Crown is now suitable to hold a license in New South Wales (NSW), the spokesperson added. But the commencement of gaming will allow the regulator to “assess Crown’s progress towards suitability.”
Crown lost its NSW license in February 2021 on the recommendation of a public inquiry led by former NSW Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin.
Bergin found that “poor corporate governance” had led to the facilitation of money laundering. It also caused the pursuit of commercial relationships with junket operators with links to triads and other organized crime groups.
Crown Sydney Anticlimax
Crown had hoped to launch the new venue, the tallest skyscraper on the Sydney skyline, with much fanfare in late December 2020. But with the Bergin Inquiry still in full swing, the company was denied permission to open its gaming floor, although its hospitality and dining facilities commenced as planned.
The fact that Crown Sydney was conceived as a destination catering to the Asian VIP segment likely contributed to the decision. It was Crown’s pursuit of this market that got it in hot water.
Crown Sydney was always a controversial project. Critics said its initial license was awarded too freely back in 2013, and there was a lack of public consultation about a project that would become so transformative to the city’s skyline. Its design has been described as “phallic.” Construction was delayed by legal challenges and planning regulations.
The Bergin Inquiry recommended that Crown would have to implement substantial and widespread reforms before it could be considered suitable for licensing in NSW.
Crown Extends Losses
The inquiry’s findings triggered similar investigations in Perth and Victoria, the latter home to the operator’s flagship Crown Melbourne.
On Thursday, it posted a net loss of A$196 million (US$140 million) for the six months ended December 31. That’s compared with a loss of A$121 million (US$87 million) in the prior corresponding period. The company cited the regulatory pressures, as well as disruption to operations from COVID-19.
Earlier this month, Crown agreed to a US$6.3 billion takeover by private equity giant Blackstone Group. The deal provides an exit for billionaire James Packer, the company’s founder and largest shareholder, whom Bergin described as having a “disastrous” influence on the company.