Packer set to face questions

by Charlotte Lee Last Updated
Packer pulls rank over Melco sale, inquiry heard

Head of Crown Resorts James Packer wants to run a casino and resort that is set to open in Sydney later this year.

Celebrity Net Worth reports that if Mr Packer wants his company to hold onto its licence, he will have to face a probe over his alleged connections to Chinese organised crime.

And the probe may be bad news for the casino magnate in a climate that is already shaky, thanks to coronavirus-related travel restrictions from China to Australia that has already put a dent in the company’s business.

The probe comes as Packer has faced a multitude of legal problems over the last few years, including trouble with authorities in China and two cancelled business deals.

The investigation will reportedly seek to find answers regarding allegations against Packer, like the charge that he allowed Chinese criminal triad organisations to launder money through his casinos, and collaborated with various criminal enterprises in its mission to attract big spenders.

Even if the probe doesn’t result in Crown’s licence to operate in Sydney being suspended, it could still be bad for business for much of the company and Packer’s dirty laundry to be aired in public with such a heavy spotlight.

Roy Wheatley, head of the casino-and-hotel focused Global Consulting and Development, says that the probe will likely attract exactly the kind of publicity Packer doesn’t want.

Packer reportedly has a 37 per cent stake in Crown Resorts, and the company has seen plenty of rocky roads, even before those aforementioned travel restrictions.

Crow’s casinos located elsewhere in Australia saw a 34 per cent drop in high roller turnover between June and December last year, thought to be related to all the bad publicity surrounding the allegations against Packer.

Packer to face inquiry

James Packer will be called to give evidence at an inquiry into the proposed sale of his $1.76 billion stake in Crown Resorts to a Hong Kong based casino operator.

ABC News reported in January that the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority is investigating after it was announced in May that just under 20 per cent of Mr Packer’s CPH Crown Holdings would be sold to Lawrence Ho’s Melco Resorts and Entertainment Limited.

It represents almost half of Mr Packer’s stake in the casino giant.

The move has raised questions due to ownership restrictions on Crown’s casino project in Barangaroo.

Crown is prevented from starting any new business activities with 55 companies and five individuals under an agreement with the ILGA, which includes Lawrence Ho’s father, Stanley, and any of his associates.

The probe will examine whether the proposed sale constitutes a breach of the restricted gaming licence or any other regulatory agreements.

During opening statements, the inquiry was told Mr Packer would be called to give evidence at a later date and the inquiry would continue in late February.

“One of the matters is the extent to which Mr Stanley Ho, Lawrence Ho’s father, or persons or entities associated with him, have corporate or business connections with the Melco entities,” Counsel Assisting Adam Bell SC said.

Mr Bell said Stanley Ho had consistently denied allegations he is connected with organised crime and that he’s never been convicted of a criminal offence.

“Mr Lawrence Ho has always stressed the independence of Melco Resorts from Mr Stanley Ho,” he said.

“He has also pointed out that Melco Resorts operates casinos in Macau in competition with casinos associated with Stanley Ho.”

The inquiry will also consider media reports on Crown from July last year that raised allegations of money laundering, breaches of gambling laws and links to human trafficking.

The company denied those allegations.

The ILGA investigation will also consider Crown’s anti-money laundering measures, how it vets junkets – or large groups of high rollers – brought into its venues, and the general vulnerability of casinos to money laundering.

The inquiry heard previous investigations found no evidence that either Lawrence Ho or Melco are not of good repute, having regard to his character, honesty and integrity, or that either of them had any “undesirable or unsatisfactory financial sources.”

Back to top