In Australia and the boss for Asian casino giant, Melco Resorts and Entertainment Limited, is reportedly set to take part in an official enquiry looking into his firm’s planned purchase of an almost 20% stake in local gambling firm, Crown Resorts Limited.
According to a report from Inside Asian Gaming, Lawrence Ho Yau Lung serves as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for the Hong Kong-headquartered casino operator and is to be grilled by the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority from next month over whether the envisioned transaction could constitute a ‘breach’ of Crown Resorts’ gambling license.
Sydney-listed Crown Resorts Limited is responsible for the Crown Perth venue in Western Australia as well as Victoria’s giant Crown Melbourne and signed off on a $1.2 billion arrangement in May that is to involve its largest shareholder, CPH Crown Holdings Proprietary Limited, offloading a 19.9% stake in its business to Melco Resorts and Entertainment Limited.
However, officials in New South Wales reportedly launched an investigation into this agreement in August so as to ascertain the exact relationship between Ho and his father, 98-year-old Macau casino magnate Stanley Ho Hung Sun. The elder Ho has previously purportedly been prohibited from investing in casinos in Australia amid allegations, which he has continually denied, that he had built his gambling empire through links with organized crime groups.
The younger Ho reportedly told Inside Asian Gaming…
“Both Crown Resorts Limited and I have always stressed that my business dealings are independent of my father’s interests. We have already been in partnership with Crown Resorts Limited for twelve years and have passed probity screens from regulators without an issue.”
Crown Resorts is furthermore in the process of building its casino-friendly Crown Sydney facility in the harborside Barangaroo district of central Sydney and expects the 350-room venue to begin welcoming guests from next year. The operator has purportedly repeatedly described any claims that it or any of its partners were involved in money laundering or other crimes as ‘outright falsehoods.’
For its part, CPH Crown Holdings Proprietary Limited is controlled by controversial Australian billionaire businessman, James Packer (pictured), and the 52-year-old has reportedly also agreed to appear before the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority in order to answer questions regarding the planned share deal.
The New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority’s investigation is being led by former New South Wales Supreme Court Judge, Patricia Bergin, and she reportedly proclaimed that her office had contacted ‘relevant Crown parties and other parties’ to seek information and documents regarding the ongoing inquiry. She purportedly additionally explained that the regulator had so far issued some 35 summons and received approximately 58,000 documents to help with the examination, which she expects to resume from February 24.