The ongoing health crisis related to the severe outbreak of the coronavirus around the world had another type of impact on a casino operator, Crown Resorts, as several days ago there was an announcement that the investigation in New South Wales /NSW/, Australia, into the operator’s suitability to hold a gaming license had been postponed indefinitely.
Regulator Abandons Inquiry Due to Safety Concerns
The investigation into the gaming company founded by billionaire James Packer by NSW officials was initially delayed in February. This time, the Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority /ILGA/, the Australian regulator of all gaming activities, decided the situation regarding the spread of the virus did not allow the conduct of proper inquiry and suspended it for an indefinite period of time.
“The Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority (ILGA) has 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.”Official Statement, ILGA
The Australian regulatory body pointed out decision was made in line with the advice and restrictions unveiled by the Commonwealth and State Government, and concluded that the investigation into the casino resorts operator would resume as soon as the circumstances allow it.
The Controversial Australian Operator
Currently, Crown Resorts operates two resort-type casinos, in Perth, Western Australia, and in Melbourne, Victoria. A third resort, in Sydney, New South Wales, is under construction while the other two have stopped casino operations due to the virus spread containment measures. Hotels in the resorts, however, continue to operate, albeit in a decreased capacity.
Closing down of Crown’s casino in Melbourne did not go without controversy as Victoria Government landed into cold waters by initially granting a special exemption from the social distancing rules to the gaming facility, prompting health experts to raise safety-related questions. After public pressure on the government piled up, it was forced to revoke the exemption.
Ties to Organized Crime
The investigation from the NSW regulator into Crown Resorts’ sustainability to hold a casino operating license was launched in response to rumours connecting the resorts operator company with organized crime and illegal activities.
Melco Resorts and Entertainment announced in May 2019 it would acquire 19.99% share in CrownResorts in two tranches and prompted the ILGA to conduct the investigation, as the owner of Melco, Lawrence Ho, is son of Stanley Ho, the latter being alleged to having ties with organized crime in China. In February, after the ILGA launched an investigation into the deal, Melco announced it would no longer pursue the purchase of the second tranche of shares of Crown Resorts.
The latest project of the Australian gaming company, the currently under development casino resort at Barangaroo in Sydney, also became subject to regulatory action as the casino company is suspected of having violated the terms of its operating license.