Crown Sydney Suitability Decision Imminent, Ruling Issued Under Parliamentary Privilege
Posted on: February 8, 2021, 09:37h.
Last updated on: February 8, 2021, 12:33h.
Crown Sydney will find out its fate tomorrow, when the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) issues its verdict on whether the property’s parent company is suitable to hold a casino license.
Former New South Wales (NSW) Supreme Court Judge Patricia Bergin is deciding the outcome for the AUD$2.4 billion (USD $1.8 billion) complex. Overlooking the Sydney Harbor Bridge, the 75-story hotel and residential tower is the tallest structure in the NSW capital.
Bergin’s 800-page report will be published tomorrow, Feb. 9. The document will reveal whether there was ample evidence presented during the ILGA inquiry to warrant revoking Crown Resorts’ gaming license in the Australian state.
Attorneys assisting the gaming regulator during the investigative proceedings recommended that Crown be deemed unsuitable to conduct gaming operations in NSW. Their opinion arose from Crown executives conceding that there have been breakdowns in the casino operator’s safeguards to prevent money laundering. Crown has also been accused of having ties to known criminal syndicates throughout Asia.
Ruling Released Under Privilege
The ILGA verdict will be published under Parliamentary Privilege. That condition allows the NSW government, as well as witnesses who testified before the inquiry, to be immune from potential legal challenges from Crown Resorts.
The term ‘privilege,’ in relation to parliamentary privilege, refers to an immunity from the ordinary law, which is recognized by the law as a right of the houses and their members,” explains the Parliament of Australia website.
“The principal immunity is the freedom of parliamentary debates and proceedings from question and impeachment in the courts, the most significant effect of which is that members of Parliament cannot be sued or prosecuted for anything they say in debate in the houses. The principal powers are the power to compel the attendance of witnesses, the giving of evidence and the production of documents, and to adjudge and punish contempt’s of the house,” the website further explains.
In short, releasing the final report in privilege means Crown Resorts cannot sue Parliament members involved with the inquiry, nor witnesses who said potentially defamatory comments against Crown.
Crown Resorts has taken steps to change its organization since the NSW probe began in August of 2019. The Aussie casino giant reformed its board leadership announced that it will only deal with licensed VIP junket groups in the jurisdiction where its casino is operating, and even appointed an executive financial crimes officer.
One major concern for NSW regulators remains James Packer. The billionaire retains a 35.9 percent ownership stake in Crown Resorts. In November, inquiry attorneys told Bergin that Packer’s personal and business conduct in recent years has rendered him unsuitable to be a close associate of Crown Resorts.
ILGA counsel Adam Bell presented evidence that Packer continued to influence the company after stepping down from the Crown board in 2018. Packer admitted in October to sending “shameful” threatening texts to unidentified business colleagues five years earlier.
Packer says his struggles with bipolar disorder and “strong medication” impacted his actions.
If Bergin deems Crown unsuitable to hold a casino license, the resort complex will likely go on the market. Crown Sydney opened as a hotel without a casino in December.
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