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Crown opens in DAYS as scandal-marred Sydney casino finally gets green light

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Crown Sydney opens in DAYS as the scandal-marred casino finally gets the green light to reboot its struggling betting arm – but don’t expect the slots to kick in just yet

  • Crown ready to finally open Sydney casino after reaching deal with regulator
  • Casino would operate under strict conditions if the NSW cabinet approves the deal
  • Official investigations in three states have found Crown ineligible to hold gambling licenses
  • Accusations of criminal involvement and money laundering have haunted Crown

It’s been a bittersweet day for billionaire James Packer after authorities finally agreed to let his former company Crown Resorts open his casino in Sydney.

The deal, made with NSW’s Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) and expected to be ratified by the state cabinet on Monday, will allow Crown to start gaming in the massive glass Crown Towers, which preside over the city’s water district of Barangaroo.

A highly conditional license has been agreed with the ILGA, which, if the conditions are met and maintained for a maximum of two years, will then be converted into a regular license.

Under the license, Crown would be allowed to open the VIP play floor to high rollers.

The regulator has also given the green light to the $8.9 billion sale of Crown to US investment firm Blackstone.

Mr. Packer is to receive a $3.3 billion windfall for his 37 percent majority stake in the company, ending his 20-year relationship with the gaming arm of Crown Resorts.

Crown majority shareholder James Packer will be relieved that the Sydney casino appears to be opening, despite an official investigation that the company deems ineligible to hold a gambling license in NSW.

A man walks past the Crown Sydney hotel resort, where the company can finally begin casino operations after a regulator recommended a two-year conditional license

A man walks past the Crown Sydney hotel resort, where the company can finally begin casino operations after a regulator recommended a two-year conditional license

A new independent and comprehensive regulator is expected to oversee the Sydney casino’s operations under strict conditions to prevent money laundering, an allegation that has haunted Crown’s other casinos in Melbourne and Perth.

The decision comes despite NSW Bergin’s investigation, which determined in early 2021 that the company was not fit to hold a gaming license.

The investigation was launched following Crown’s 2017 sale of a nearly 20 percent stake in companies associated with Macau gambling mogul Stanley Ho, which had been officially banned for alleged links to the Triad’s organized crime group.

Crown was also accused of collaborating with Asian crime syndicates to organize gambling addicts.

In 2016, Crown employees were arrested in China for illegally promoting gambling.

Crown Towers dominate the skyline in Sydney's Barangaroo waterfront neighborhood, but the company's casino operations are dogged by claims of illegal activity

Crown Towers dominate the skyline in Sydney’s Barangaroo waterfront neighborhood, but the company’s casino operations are dogged by claims of illegal activity

On Tuesday, Crown was fined $80 million by the Victorian regulator for money laundering at its Melbourne casino.

Crown helped Chinese guests get around their country’s currency restrictions by allowing money transferred to a bank card for gambling, in violation of Australian law.

The bets were disguised by Crown as payments for hotel services.

Victoria’s regulator, who was set up to oversee the casino after an earlier investigation found Crown unfit to be licensed, said the company was “profiting well from its illegal behavior”.

Melbourne Crown casino fined $80 million for illegally using bank cards to fund gambling and falsely claiming transfers were for hotel services

Melbourne Crown casino fined $80 million for illegally using bank cards to fund gambling and falsely claiming transfers were for hotel services

In May, a Western Australian commission also found that Crown’s Perth casino was engaged in similar activities, rendering the company unfit to hold a gambling license there.

However, Crown has been given two years to demonstrate that it can run cleanly.

The Melbourne and Perth casinos are also facing a money laundering lawsuit from financial control agency AUSTRAC.

Crown has admitted what it called “historical flaws” in inciting illegal use of bank cards for gambling, but insists the company is reforming itself.

Star Casino, Crown’s main gambling rival in Sydney, is currently the subject of an investigation into its eligibility to hold a gambling license as it is accused of allowing $1 billion in illegal debit card transactions.

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