Crown Resorts is not suitable to hold the licence to operate a new $2.2 billion casino in inner Sydney, an inquiry has been told.
The NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority’s inquiry was triggered last year after media reports the company had been doing business with “junket” operators linked to organised crime.
“The evidence presented to this inquiry demonstrates that the licensee is not a suitable person to continue to give affect to the licence,” Counsel Assisting Adam Bell said in final submissions on Wednesday.
Mr Bell said the influence of billionaire and major shareholder James Packer and his private company Consolidated Press Holdings (CPH) contributed to the arrest of Crown staff in China in 2016 for promoting gambling.
“It’s submitted that the impact of that influence put Crown Resorts in breach of its regulatory agreements with the authority,” Mr Bell said.
“In those instances the adverse impact of CPH and Mr Packer, we submit, was ultimately harmful to the public interest, which is a primary object of the Casino Control Act to protect.”
The inquiry has also examined whether Crown’s NSW licence was violated when CPH attempted to sell 19.99 per cent of its stock to Melco Resorts last year.
Melco was run by the son of since-deceased Macau gambling king Stanley Ho, with whom Crown was banned from associating by the NSW government.
Mr Bell said a common theme in the China arrests and Melco transfer was the “deleterious impact” on the governance of Crown caused by its “dominant shareholder, CPH and ultimately Mr Packer”.
The casino at Barangaroo is set to open in December but the head of the inquiry, Commissioner Patricia Bergin, isn’t expected to hand down a final report until February 1.
Conditions may be placed on the gaming giant or it could be prevented from operating the casino.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she would seek “urgent advice” on the matter and did not rule out asking Crown to push back their opening date.
Mr Packer owns 36.8 per cent of Crown through his private company but has previously conceded he might have to sell some of his stake.
Crown in October issued an apology to shareholders for governance and risk management failures raised during the inquiry.