Crown Resorts Founder James Packer Won’t Return to the Gaming Industry

Posted on: March 6, 2024, 02:12h. 

Last updated on: March 7, 2024, 11:17h.

Billionaire James Packer said during a recent interview that he has no interest in returning to the gaming industry, and believes China President Xi Jinping has set the People’s Republic back decades.

James Packer Crown China
James Packer takes a stroll in Beverly Hills on Friday, March 1, 2024. Packer says China has become unattractive for investment under President Xi Jinping’s reign. (Image: Daily Mail)

Packer, 56, founded Crown Resorts in 2007, which is today the largest gaming operator in Australia. The billionaire ran the casino company until March 2018, when he resigned as chairman and CEO amid mental health concerns.

In a wide-ranging interview with new media startup The Nightly in Australia, his first major interview in years, Packers revealed that he has no plans of coming back to the casino industry.

I never want to go near a business like that again,” Packer said of casinos and their highly regulated environment. “The way the governments changed tax rates, changed deals, and broke contracts is a lesson to me in never wanting to be in regulated businesses again.”

After two failed marriages, Packer was in a high-profile relationship with Mariah Carey. The couple became engaged in January 2016. They later called off the marriage, with Packer saying the engagement was a “mistake.”

Packer’s Backstory

In 2005, Packer inherited his father’s media empire, which included the Nine Network and Australian  Consolidated Press. Packer subsequently transitioned the family fortune from media investments to casinos.

Packer’s exit from Crown in early 2018 came about two years after 19 employees were arrested and detained in China on an array of “gambling crimes.” Chinese law enforcement alleged the Crown workers were knowingly violating the People’s Republic’s laws by marketing casino trips to Australia.

Along with its casinos in Australia — Crown Melbourne, Crown Perth, and Crown Sydney — Crown Resorts was part of a joint venture with Hong Kong billionaire Lawrence Ho called Melco Crown in China’s Macau.

Melco Crown developed and opened City of Dreams and Studio City. Packer began selling down his stake in Crown, with Melco Crown later becoming Melco Resorts after Ho assumed majority control. Ho led the breakup after he said Melco Crown employees from Australia were “deliberately spitting” on the Chinese in their marketing ploys. Packer made a profit on his Melco investment, but lost all control of the Macau properties.

Several years later, Packer sold more of his Crown fortune to appease Australian inquiries regarding the company’s suitability to continue holding its casino licenses. Government and regulatory officials found evidence that Packer was still running the Crown show despite not sitting on the board or serving in an executive capacity.

He sold his remaining 37% position in Crown in 2022 to private equity giant Blackstone for $2.2 billion. Two years later, Packer is finally speaking out about his time at the Crown helm.

China Blame, Looking Forward 

“I accept Crown did things that it should not have done and I apologize for that,” Packer said.

Packer concedes his leadership wasn’t perfect. But he also casts blame on China, which he claims has become a difficult — if not impossible — place to invest in under Xi’s rule.

I’m not going back to China, no way,” Packer declared. “I think Xi has set China back 20 years,” Packer declared.

“Fifteen years ago, the Communist Party got their legitimacy from delivering economic growth. You had people from all around the world looking to invest in China. I think Xi has made China uninvestable,” Packer added.

Packer says he’s in the early stages of a new romance and is enjoying a quieter life that’s helped his mental health.

“Mentally, I think I’m better than I’ve been for a while. I am just trying to be sensible and enjoy life more and be more relaxed,” Packer concluded.