Crown Resorts granted approval to operate Sydney casino

Crown Resorts granted approval to operate Sydney casino

Crown Resorts has been given conditional approval to open its Sydney casino, 16 months after being deemed unfit to hold a gaming licence.

The NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) has given Crown the green light but says it will closely monitor the casino’s initial operations.

Last year, ILGA found the gambling giant unfit to hold a gaming license for the casino at Barangaroo after a months-long public inquiry, which exposed allegations of money laundering.

ILGA chair Philip Crawford said Crown had rebuilt its gaming model from the ground up, which has meant deep structural change around governance, anti-money laundering measures and corporate culture.

“After more than one year’s work with Crown, the Authority is pleased to have reached a stage where Crown can open its casino operations on a conditional basis,” Mr Crawford said.

Crown’s chief executive officer and managing director, Steve McCann, said it could now finalize opening plans and details would be “announced shortly”.

He said Crown had spent the past 15 months showing the ILGA it had “the right measures in place” to open its gaming facilities in Sydney.

“Today is an important day for Crown, our customers and our people, who have been eagerly awaiting this announcement for some time and cannot wait to share the full Crown Sydney experience with the world,” Mr McCann said.

ILGA’s initial decision meant the casino section of Crown’s skyscraper on Sydney Harbor was blocked from opening, however, the hotel and restaurants within the building have been free to operate.

ILGA has also given operating approval to Blackstone, the US private equity group set to take over Crown from June 24.

Earlier this month, the Federal Court approved Blackstone’s $8.9 billion takeover bid.

Crown’s sale means its founder, James Packer, will receive a $3.3 billion payday for his 37 per cent stake.

Crown tower dominating the Sydney skyline.
Crown’s tower at Barangaroo dominates the city skyline.(Four Corners: Harriet Tatham)

Last year, Crown Resorts made new commitments with the ILGA in a bid to open the casino.

It committed to paying a portion of the costs of last year’s inquiry, paying a casino supervision levy, ceasing all international junket partnerships, adopting a cashless gaming model and phasing out indoor smoking.

Crown is tying to clean up its image after being fined for illegally promoting gambling in China where 14 staff were jailed, and several damaging inquiries which found the casino operator enabled money laundering and had links to criminal gangs.

This month, the Western Australian government found Blackstone suitable to hold a license for Crown’s Perth-based complex.

The private equity giant has also passed that hurdle in Victoria, home to Crown’s flagship Melbourne casino.

Inquiries held in both states delivered scathing findings which had left Crown’s future in limbo until the prospective Blackstone sale.

In Sydney, Crown’s $2.2 billion development at Barangaroo has been mired in controversy.

Its “high-roller” gaming facility remained closed when despite its restaurants and serviced apartments opening in late 2020.

The skyscraper itself, first proposed unsolicited by Mr Packer in 2012, was built on land originally slated as public space.

In 2016, the Department of Planning recommended Crown’s hotel, casino and apartment complex should go ahead despite some community backlash.

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