Regulator to meet before Crown defense has its say

Crown Barangaroo

The New South Wales regulator will hold a meeting next week to discuss whether Crown Resorts can open its new Sydney casino in December as planned, raising concern as the company will not have concluded its defence.

The Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority will gather on November 18 to discuss whether it should stop the $2.2 billion VIP-only casino from being opened until issues raised in a suitability hearing have been resolved.

As a quick recap, the probe into Crown was opened after Australian news media last year published an investigative report, which detailed a litany of allegations, including links to organized crime, money being laundered through its casinos and immigration issues. 

The long-running inquiry, which resumed in July after a Covid-enforced suspension, is now in its closing stages. Last week, counsels for the inquiry told presiding Judge Patricia Bergin that the company was “unsuitable” to hold the license due to the shocking series of revelations about the company’s corporate governance culture.

Counsel also had harsh words about Crown’s efforts to remedy the situation. Naomi Sharp, SC, said on Monday that Crown’s attempts to clean up its act were insufficient to address the deep-seated culture of dysfunction and “arrogant indifference” to regulatory compliance.

Still, forcing the company to delay its opening may lay the groundwork for a clash between Crown and the government. The license was granted in 2014 when a different government was in power. It reportedly contains clauses that limit the regulator’s ability to take action that would result in economic damage to the company. 

Crown’s lawyers have also as yet not presented their defense and they won’t have concluded their submission until after the November 18 meeting, resulting in questions of due process should the regulator deny the operator its opening plans. 

Crown had planned a gala opening for the property in Barangaroo on December 14 and so far it has not given any indication it plans to voluntarily change course.