An inquiry into casino operator Crown Resorts Ltd’s suitability to hold a gaming licence in New South Wales, Australia, has been temporarily halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
New South Wales’ Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority said in a Friday release it had decided “that most of the work of the casino inquiry will be deferred in the current context of the Covid-19 epidemic, until it is considered safe and practicable for all public aspects of the work to resume.”
As of April 3 mid-afternoon, there had been 5,350 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Australia, and 26 deaths, according to the country’s Department of Health.
The Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority added the decision to defer the inquiry had followed “careful consideration of the current Covid-19 situation, [and] Commonwealth and State Government advice and restrictions.”
The notice said the inquiry and its public hearings would “resume promptly as soon as circumstances allow”.
Crown Resorts runs a gaming complex in Melbourne, Victoria; one in Perth, Western Australia; and is developing a third at Barangaroo in Sydney, New South Wales. The casino operator said in a Friday filing that it would “continue to fully cooperate” with the relevant authorities regarding the inquiry.
Asian casino investor Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd, a company controlled by gaming entrepreneur Lawrence Ho Yau Lung, announced in May last year that it was paying US$1.2 billion to acquire a 19.99-percent stake in Crown Resorts, in two equal tranches. In February Melco Resorts said it had decided not to pursue the purchase of the second tranche of shares in the Australian company.
Prior to that announcement, the New South Wales gaming regulator had already launched a public inquiry into the deal, as well as to probe whether Crown Resorts breached the terms of its gaming licence for its Barangaroo project.
The inquiry was temporarily halted in late February pending a decision from the New South Wales Court of Appeal on whether Melco Resorts ought to hand over legally-privileged company documents to the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority as part of the regulatory probe. The court eventually ruled Melco Resorts should do so.
It had been expected that Melco Resorts’ Mr Ho, and James Packer – a Crown Resorts founder and shareholder – would attend the regulatory inquiry.
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Lawrence Ho Yau Lung
Chairman of casino operator Melco Resorts