The NSW state gaming regulator will effectively block the launch of Crown Resorts’ US$2.2 billion Sydney casino development until the findings of an inquiry into its suitability to hold a casino license are handed down next February.
According to a Wednesday announcement, the NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority has formally requested that Crown delay opening, currently planned for 14 December, due to concerns over issues of compliance raised during the inquiry.
While the regulator won’t physically stop Crown Sydney from opening its doors next month, chairman Philip Crawford said the Authority had resolved that it was unable to consider a range of essential regulatory applications on matters such as minimum bet limits, VIP membership policy, gaming area boundaries and “close associates” of the license holder – all essential to the casino’s operations.
“We are hopeful that Crown Resorts will agree to our request to postpone opening of all gaming activities, which would be unable to begin without approval of these regulatory matters,” Crawford said.
“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.
“In light of this, we did not consider it appropriate to determine the applications before the Authority until the findings of the Bergin Inquiry.”
There may be some leeway for Crown Sydney to open some non-gaming attractions, including hotel, restaurants, bars and entertainment, in the meantime, Crawford added.
In a statement of its own published shortly after the ILGA’s announcement, Crown said it had “determined that gaming operations at Crown Sydney will not commence in December 2020,” and would instead, “continue to focus on opening the non-gaming operations at Crown Sydney, in consultation with ILGA, in the absence of the commencement of gaming operations.”
This latest setback for Crown comes just a day after the company announced it would permanently cease all activity with junket operators at its Australian casinos due to concerns over money laundering risks.
Last month the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation also issued Crown with a notice to show cause why it should not be disciplined for alleged failures of its internal junket controls.
Crown is already in the midst of a board makeover with former Executive Chairman John Alexander and John Horvath both stepping down at the recent AGM. Chairman Helen Coonan has promised that further changes to the Board of Directors will come.