The NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority has announced that it will conduct an official inquiry into the proposed sale of shares in Crown Resorts from James Packer’s CPH Crown Holdings to Melco Resorts & Entertainment.
The inquiry, to be conducted under the NSW Casino Control Act, follows recent reports by Australian media outlets alleging links between Crown and Asian crime syndicates and questioning the company’s relationship with junket operators.
Melco revealed in late May that it had reached an agreement to acquire a 19.99% stake in Crown for a total consideration of AU$1.76 billion (HK$9.58 billion), but the NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority revealed on Thursday that it will now inquire into the transaction and the matters raised in the media reports relating to Crown.
In doing so, the Authority said it has already issued notices to “relevant Crown parties and other parties” compulsorily seeking documents and information that will assist in its investigations and be used in the inquiry.
The inquiry aims to ensure that the management and operation of Crown’s under-construction AU$2.2 billion Crown Sydney casino, due for completion in 2021, remain free from criminal influence or exploitation and that gaming is conducted honestly, “controlling the potential … to cause harm to the public interest and to individuals and families.”
It will take evidence in public with the capacity to also conduct private hearings to receive confidential information from law enforcement or other sensitive information, the Authority added.
Melco Chairman and CEO Lawrence Ho has previously stated his confidence in passing probity checks, including potential investigations into any business links with his elderly father and Macau casino pioneer Dr Stanley Ho.
In an interview with the Australian Financial Review in June, Ho said, “Both Crown and I have always stressed that my business dealings are independent of my father’s interests. We have already been in partnership with Crown for 12 years and have passed probity screens from regulators without an issue.”
Crown said in a statement that it would fully cooperate with the inquiry.