Australia regulator report on Crown Resorts to be published Tuesday

SYDNEY, Feb 8 (Reuters) – Australian authorities will publish a report on Tuesday on whether casino giant Crown Resorts Ltd should be allowed to offer gambling in a just-opened A$2.2 billion ($1.7 billion) Sydney resort, a regulator said.

The report by retired judge Patricia Bergin will say whether the company 35.9% owned by billionaire James Packer is suitable to hold a gambling licence, what should be done if it isn’t, and whether the casino regulatory system is effective, the New South Wales state Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority (ILGA) said.

Crown, which has casinos only in the cities of Melbourne and Perth, has pegged its future growth to the new complex in Sydney, having spent nearly a decade gaining approval and building the waterfront tower, the city’s tallest.

But media articles in 2019 about its Melbourne casino thrust the company into the spotlight with allegations it knowingly did business with organised crime groups and turned a blind eye to money laundering, prompting the government of neighbouring New South Wales to call for an inquiry into whether it should be allowed to open in Sydney.

Crown initially denied the reports in full-page newspaper advertisements. But Crown executives testifying at the inquiry acknowledged the possibility of money laundering taking place at the Melbourne casino.

Crown has since said it has cut ties with all tour operators, and that it would only resume dealing with the so-called “junket” operators if they were approved by regulators.

The company had said it was committed to a December 2020 opening of its Sydney tower, designed to impress tourists with sweeping harbour views although Australia’s borders remain closed because of COVID-19.

But ILGA, the regulator which commissioned the inquiry, said it was suspending Crown’s gambling licence until it had considered Bergin’s report, leaving Crown to open the 75-floor building without gambling.

Though the government would publish the report on Tuesday, the regulator would not comment on it publicly until it had formally considered it, ILGA added.

($1 = 1.3028 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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