James Packer Sydney casino model

Some documents related to James Packer’s proposed Sydney casino were marked secret by the NSW government. (Image: cirrusmedia.com.au)

The James Packer Sydney casino certainly received a lot of scrutiny, both from the New South Wales government and the Australian public. With so much attention paid to the development of the VIP project and the surrounding complex in Barangaroo, one might assume that the entire process was made as transparent as possible to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

But it turns out that this deal has some secrets that neither Crown Resorts nor the NSW government thinks the public has a right to know.

According to a report from the Sydney Morning Herald, key documents related to the awarding of Packer’s license for the Sydney casino were stamped secret by the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority, the gambling regulator in NSW. Many of these documents relate to agreements signed by Crown Resorts and related entities with the NSW government and the state gaming authority.

Agreements About Casino Operations

Of particular interest were eight agreements related to casino operations that were to be executed when the casino license was issued, which ultimately took place on July 8. The names of the agreements and the parties involved in them have been released in seven of those documents. However, the eighth has been completely censored, including all parties involved and even the title of the agreement itself.

According to a spokesperson for the gaming authority, provisions about secrecy mean that the agency isn’t allowed to divulge information unless it is related to the Casino Control Act, is in the public interest, and won’t cause commercial damage, a standard the information in the agreement in question apparently doesn’t rise to.

“The information redacted in the VIP Gaming Management Agreement document would, in the view of the authority, not promote the objects of the relevant act and be commercially damaging to the licensee or related entities if released,” the spokesperson said. “It was the authority’s view the public interest in its disclosure did not outweigh that potential harm.”

Greens Want a Look at Redacted Information

While that may prove to be true, not everyone in Australia is willing to take the authority’s words on face value. Greens MP John Kaye said that his party plans to subpoena the documents in the NSW Parliament next week. A process is in place by which the upper house of the legislature can demand to see the redacted portions of commercially sensitive documents.

The documents would then be released to MPs, though they would be forbidden to go public with that information. However, if they believe the public should be able to see what they’ve seen, there is an arbitration process to determine whether or not the information can remain secret.

“If this is entirely innocent, then the government should be happy to allow upper house MPs to see the documents,” Kaye said. “If not, then it’s clear that they are running cover for James Packer and Crown.”

Premier Mike Baird says that details of all contracts signed by the government would be released to the public in due time.

“There’s no secrets,” Baird said. “I know the Greens like to talk about conspiracy and secrets but there is none, as much as they look.”

The Barangaroo casino is schedule to open in November 2019, and will cater exclusively to VIP patrons.