Government inquiry into Crown set to resume

by Ethan Anderson Last Updated
Crown?s Victorian royal commission gets underway

A New South Wales government enquiry into the Crown Resorts and Melco Entertainment deal has resumed for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic.

Casino Aus reports the pandemic dealt Crown Resorts a brief reprieve from inquiries into its 2019 deal with Melco Resorts.

The New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority hearings are set to resume “immediately”.

Active parts of the inquiry paused in April due to health and government official mandates, but those restrictions are slowly lifting.

“After carefully considering the current COVID-19 situation, and Commonwealth and New South Wales government advice and restrictions, the Authority considers it safe and practicable to resume the inquiry’s work,” the government said.

The Honourable Patricia Bergin SC remains the appointed commissioner for the inquiry and continues to operate under the Royal Commissions Act of 1923.

The case’s first public hearing took place on January 21, 2020.

The hearings during the last week of February became more focused though, with Australian casino operators and then casino junket operations with relation to Crown and Melco examined.

Regulatory statutes and vulnerabilities with relation to money laundering via casinos was also discussed.

Almost one year ago, an exposed by 60 Minutes, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age hit the gambling world.

The allegations in the report included everything from money laundering to sex trafficking, all under the knowing eyes of Crown Casino executives.

The charges tying Crown Casino to Chinese crime syndicates may have been enough to warrant an inquiry in and of itself, but the relationship between James Packer of Crown and Lawrence Ho of Melco Resorts complicated matters.

The son of casino mogul Stanley Ho, Lawrence had long been thought to have maintained relationships with Chinese criminal triads and Packer’s relationship with the Ho’s made Australian government officials uncomfortable.

Packer also vowed in a previous agreement with the Australian government to never do business with the Ho family.

Despite that pledge, Packer sold a share of Crown Resorts to Lawrence Ho and Melco Resorts.

That tenth of Packer’s shares cost Ho approximately $1.76 billion.

While New South Wales officials stepped in, Melco began to pull away.

Inquiry demands of documents from Melco prompted Ho to step back and ultimately drop his plan to purchase another 10 per cent of Crown.

Gambling tycoon Stanley Ho dies

The king of Macau’s gaming scene, Stanley Ho, died at the age of 98 in May.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported the flamboyant gambling tycoon, whose alleged association with the gambling industry’s seedy underbelly caused major headaches for Australia’s Crown Resorts recently died peacefully in his sleep, according to a family statement.

The entrepreneur headed one of the world’s most lucrative gaming businesses through his flagship firm, SJM Holdings Ltd, valued at A$9 billion.

Born in Hong Kong of mixed Chinese and European heritage, Mr Ho fathered 17 children with four women, an extended family that engaged in high-profile squabbled over his legacy during his later years.

Despite being one of Asia’s richest men, he avoided the gambling floor.

“I don’t gamble at all. I don’t have the patience,” Mr Ho told The Associated Press in 2001.

“Don’t expect to make money in gambling. It’s a house game. It’s for the house.”

Long-standing allegations of Mr Ho’s connections to organised crime trailed his family all the way to Sydney.

Last year, the New South Wales gaming authority launched an unprecedented public inquiry into his son, Lawrence Ho’s, purchase of a 19.8 per cent stake in Crown Resorts from James Packer last year.

Mr Ho denied the allegations.

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