Casino operator Crown Resorts plans to focus on the non-gaming operations of its new Sydney development next month after a NSW regulator denied it permission to open gaming floors.
The future of the $2.2 billion casino is under a cloud as Crown continues its efforts to persuade the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority it is fit to run the gaming operation.
Crown’s lawyers will continue closing submissions on Thursday at an extraordinary inquiry which has previously aired evidence the company facilitated money laundering, partnered with dodgy junket operators and had a poor culture.
In a sign of how seriously the ILGA is taking the evidence, the regulator announced on Wednesday it was withholding regulatory approval for Crown to open the casino in December, as planned.
Allowing gambling to take place at the flagship Barangaroo facility before the ILGA had received and considered a report from its inquiry, due in February 2021, would pose an “unacceptable risk” to the community, ILGA chair Philip Crawford said.
“Crown will continue to focus on opening the non-gaming operations at Crown Sydney until February,” Crown said in a responding statement.
Crown shares were placed in a trading halt on the Australian Securities Exchange on Wednesday in advance of the ILGA’s decision.
Crown’s lawyers admitted on Wednesday that it was likely money had been laundered through its bank accounts but sought to persuade inquiry commissioner Patricia Bergin that reforms to its processes meant it was now fit to hold the casino licence.
Ms Bergin expressed frustration with the fact that the admission, and two expert reports it was based on, had been delivered at the eleventh hour of the inquiry, rather than in February 2020 when it commenced, or even in 2019.
Counsel assisting the inquiry has recommended Ms Bergin find that Crown is not presently suitable to run the casino.