The April disposal by Macau casino licensee Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd of a 9.99 percent stake in Australian gaming firm Crown Resorts Ltd has reduced the scope of a regulatory inquiry in New South Wales.
The probe will no longer need to consider whether Melco Resorts or its associates are fit to be associates in New South Wales of Crown Resorts.
But the examination of Crown Resorts’ suitability for a casino licence at a property (pictured in an artist’s rendering) in the Sydney waterfront district Barangaroo would still look at whether the sale of a stake in Crown Resorts to Melco Resorts had in the first place been a breach of the Barangaroo licence or any other regulatory agreement. That is according to the inquiry’s revised terms of reference, released on Wednesday.
Earlier this month it emerged that the High Court of Australia had refused a special-leave application filed by Melco Resorts regarding whether it needed to hand over to the inquiry certain documents the firm argued were legally privileged.
Lawrence Ho Yau Lung, a son of the former monopolist of the Macau casino market, Stanley Ho Hung Sun, is chairman and chief executive of Melco Resorts.
Mr Stanley Ho’s name had previously been linked – according to publicly-available information – with local concerns in Australia that the businesses he founded had ties to Chinese organised crime. The entrepreneur died last month, aged 98.
In a statement in August last year, Melco Resorts told GGRAsia that the then ailing nonagenarian did “not exercise any influence” over Melco Resorts.
A Tuesday press release from the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority, said the inquiry would “resume immediately” as it was judged “safe and practicable” to do so.
It said most of the inquiry’s work had been “deferred” in April due to the Covid-19 health emergency.
The inquiry will still look at whether Crown Resorts is a “suitable person” under state law. Media reports in July last year claimed that at least one Asian crime syndicate had laundered money through the firm’s Australian casino operations. Crown Resorts – founded by entrepreneur James Packer – has strongly denied wrongdoing.
On Wednesday, Crown Resorts said in a filing to the Australian Securities Exchange it would “continue to fully cooperate in relation to the inquiry.”
On Tuesday, the firm had said its Crown Perth complex in Western Australia would reopen its casino on Saturday (June 27) under restricted conditions, following a period of closure due to Covid-19.
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