James Packer Willing To Offload Crown Resort Shares To Keep Casino License
James Packer, the Australian billionaire and former Chairman of Crown Resorts has completed a three day video inquiry by the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority which grilled him on a number of critical and controversial topics.
There has been a lot of pressure on Crown Resorts in the last couple of years over its business activities that involve breaching anti-money laundering laws, collaborating with junket operators that have connections to Chinese triads and criminal activities and encouraging Crown Resorts to operate in unlicensed markets such as China.
James Packer stepped off the Crown Resorts board in 2018 but is still a major shareholder in the casino operator having a 36 percent stake. The inquiry established the fact that Packer played a key role in establishing the VIP junket operation setup that ferried high-rollers into Crown Casinos.
Packer claimed that while he was instrumental in getting the VIP junket business up and running, he had only met two junket operators. However, the two operators that he did meet have dubious records. One of them is Song Zezhai who is reported to have run a criminal setup in China while Alvin Chau, head of Suncity is banned from entering Australia due to his ties with money laundering and the fact that he is an ex triad member.
ABC News (Australia)
Packer’s reputation has taken a beating during the 3 day inquiry which does not bode well for Crown Resorts. The casino operator is currently fighting to keep its Barangaroo Casino license which it is construction at an estimated cost of over $2 billion.
Gaming regulations in Australia require the casino operator to not associate with people who have a tarnished reputation. Even though Packer no longer plays a role on the Crown board, he is a majority shareholder. Packer admits that he might have to sell all or a majority of his shares to distance himself from Crown resorts.
Report Will Be Submitted By Feb 2021
Commissioner Bergin who is in charge of the inquiry will need to submit her report and recommendations by Feb 1 to the government, who will then rule whether they need to cancel Crown’s Barangaroo Casino license or make amendments by imposing new conditions to the license agreement.
Crown Resorts has since suspended all VIP junket activity till June 30, 2021 and are in the midst of doing a review of their junket operator policies.