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NSW casino inquiry to resume but focus now on Crown license suitability following Melco Resorts departure

The NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority (ILGA) has revealed it will immediately resume its public inquiry into Australian casino operator Crown Resorts following a near three month delay due to COVID-19. However, the inquiry will shift its focus from the acquisition of a 9.99% stake in Crown by Macau’s Melco Resorts & Entertainment in May 2019 to Crown’s suitability to hold a NSW casino license after Melco recently sold off its entire holding.

In a Wednesday announcement, the ILGA said it has decided that “all work of the casino inquiry will resume immediately” due to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions but that, “Following changes in the ownership of shares in Crown Resorts by Melco Resorts, the inquiry’s Terms of Reference have been updated.”

The inquiry will now focus on a suitability review of Crown to operate its AU$2.2 billion Crown Sydney development at Barangaroo, due to open in early 2021, after certain Australian media outlets published explosive allegations last year that it had engaged in money laundering, breached gambling laws and partnered with junket operators with links to drug traffickers, money launderers, human traffickers and organized crime groups.

According to the ILGA, the Commissioner is to inquire and report on whether Crown is still suitable to hold a license for its Sydney casino and whether the original sale of shares to Melco breached its restricted gaming license, among other related matters.

A 2014 agreement between Crown Resorts and the NSW Casino, Liquor and Gaming Authority specifically prohibits any association with Dr Stanley Ho, the man credited with founding Macau’s casino industry and the father of Melco Chairman and CEO Lawrence Ho. Dr Ho passed away last month aged 98.

Crown said on Wednesday it will “continue to fully co-operate in relation to the inquiry.”

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