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Crown’s new Sydney casino faces opening delay after ILGA request

| By Robert Fletcher
The New South Wales (NSW) Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) has formally requested that Crown Resorts delay opening its new casino in Sydney next month due to concerns over the operator’s suitability to run the property.
Star Sydney

Construction on the property is due to be completed in the next few weeks and Crown had been due to commence gaming operations in December, but the ILGA has requested this be pushed back until February next year.

ILGA chair Philip Crawford said the authority is not in a position to consider a number of essential regulatory applications related to operation of the casino, including minimum bet limits, VIP membership policy, gaming area boundaries and “close associates” of the licence holder.

This, Crawford said, was due to evidence uncovered during its ongoing inquiry into Crown’s proposal to acquire a 19.99% stake in Melco Resorts & Entertainment.

Though talks over the acquisition broke down, the ILGA continued with the investigation over certain allegations against Crown.

These included claims that Crown, its agents or affiliates “engaged in money-laundering, breached gambling laws and partnered with junket operators with links to drug traffickers, money launderers, human traffickers, and organised crime groups”.

Patricia Bergin, a former judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, has been leading the investigation.

“The Authority has found ongoing evidence before the Bergin Inquiry to be extremely concerning, and that any gaming activity at the casino before the Inquiry’s findings are released in February 2021 and considered by the Authority would pose unacceptable risks on the community against the public interest,” Crawford said.

“In light of this, we did not consider it appropriate to determine the applications before the Authority until the findings of the Bergin Inquiry.”

Crawford added the ILGA is prepared to work with Crown to explore options that may enable the opening of non-gaming areas including accommodation, restaurants, bars and entertainment areas next month.

In September, Crown announced it would suspend all of its activity with junket operators until 30 June, 2021 as it undertakes an internal review of the business segment, amid the ILGA’s own review into the operator.

Crown did not say whether the internal review and suspension of such activities was directly related to the inquiry, but chief executive Kenneth Barton, finance director Michael Johnston and secretary and general council Mary Manos have all testified before the committee.

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