Australian casino operator Crown Resorts Ltd has reportedly committed itself to terminating junket operations and switching to cashless operations in its casinos, as part of a deal to restore gaming licensing for its new Sydney project at Barangaroo, in New South Wales.
The details, reported by local media outlets, were announced on Thursday by that state’s regulator, the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA).
In February, Crown Resorts was found unsuitable to run its new Sydney casino, following an inquiry into its fitness for a gaming licence in the state. Crown Sydney (pictured) is already licensed for – and running – a hotel and some restaurants for its guests.
One of the inquiry’s recommendations was that the state’s Casino Control Act be amended, to prohibit New South Wales casinos from working with junkets; commonly third-party organisations that introduce VIP gamblers to casinos.
Crown Resorts also faces respective probes into its suitability to operate its casinos in Melbourne and Perth.
The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper quoted a Crown Resorts spokesman confirming that the casino firm would also phase out the use of cash at its Melbourne and Perth casinos.
ILGA chairman Philip Crawford was quoted as saying at a press conference on Thursday he was confident Crown Resorts’ gaming venue in Sydney could be open before the end of October. But he did not say when a decision on the gaming licence would be announced.
The New South Wales regulator also disclosed on Thursday it had held discussions with the Star Entertainment Group Ltd, the operator of The Star Sydney casino hotel.
Star Entertainment has also agreed to end junket relationships, and to “work with the authority in moving towards cashless gaming, using a card linked to identity and to a recognised financial institution,” the regulator said, according to media outlets.
Crown Resorts is currently the subject of a bidding war over the direction of the company. Earlier this week, Star Entertainment submitted a merger proposal, offering 2.68 of its own shares per Crown Resorts share. It said its proposal valued Crown Resorts shares above AUD14.00 (US$11.00), and would create a combined entity worth AUD12 billion.
The merger proposal trumps a bid by private equity management firm Blackstone Group Inc, which was raised over the weekend from AUD11.85 to AUD12.35 per share. Blackstone’s new cash offer puts an AUD8.4 billion value on Crown Resorts.
Private equity firm Oaktree Capital Management LP submitted in April a AUD3.0-billion bid to buy the circa 37-percent stake of James Packer in Crown Resorts. Mr Packer, via Consolidated Press Holdings Pty Ltd, is the largest single shareholder in the casino firm.
In Thursday’s conference, Reuters reported ILGA’s Mr Crawford as saying: “Any changes to Crown’s ownership structure, including takeover or merger proposals, require the authority to consider a range of issues including … how a merged entity would operate, and the extent to which any existing agreements with Crown would need to be reviewed.”
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