The High Court of Australia has refused a special-leave application filed by casino operator Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd regarding whether it needed to hand over to a regulatory inquiry in New South Wales (NSW) certain legally-privileged documents. The regulatory probe by the authorities in that Australian state focuses on the gaming-licence suitability of Crown Resorts Ltd.
The public inquiry by the New South Wales gaming regulator was also to look into the US$1.2-billion deal for Melco Resorts to acquire a 20-percent stake in Crown Resorts.
Melco Resorts, controlled by Lawrence Ho Yau Lung, had refused to hand over documents requested as evidence as part of the regulatory probe, saying such documents were covered by legal professional privilege.
In February, the company successfully challenged the inquiry’s royal commission-like powers in the Supreme Court, but the New South Wales Court of Appeal overturned that ruling in March. The Court of Appeal’s ruling was now confirmed by the country’s High Court, according to local media reports.
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 inquiry has been temporarily halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is not yet known when it will resume and how much it will focus on Melco Resorts, since the company decided to sell its 10-percent stake in Crown Resorts, at a 37.3 percent discount.
Melco Resorts had previously shelved plans to acquire a second 10-percent tranche of shares in Crown Resorts.
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”Our own consensus is that any newcomers to this [junket] sector should be corporatised, and should be financially sound and able to commit a higher guarantee deposit”
Kwok Chi Chung
President of junket trade body, the Macau Association of Gaming and Entertainment Promoters