In Australia and the gaming regulator for the eastern state of New South Wales has reportedly launched an investigation into whether local casino operator Crown Resorts Limited may have violated its license conditions by agreeing to sell an almost 20% stake in its business to Asian counterpart Melco Resorts and Entertainment Limited.
According to a report, the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority initiated its examination yesterday and declared that the inquiry will look into whether the agreed transaction constituted a ‘breach’ of the operator’s license or other regulatory covenants.
GGRAsia reported that the investigation is being headed by former New South Wales Supreme Court Judge, Patricia Bergin, and is to also consider whether Crown Resorts Limited should be permitted to retain the state-issued casino license attached to the giant Crown Sydney facility it is building in the harborside Barangaroo district of central Sydney, which is due to begin welcoming gamblers from 2021.
Crown is already responsible for the Crown Perth venue in Western Australia as well as Victoria’s giant Crown Melbourne while May saw it sign off on a $1.2 billion deal that was see its largest shareholder, CPH Crown Holdings Proprietary Limited, offload a 19.9% stake in its business to Hong Kong-listed Melco Resorts and Entertainment Limited.
CPH Crown Holdings Proprietary Limited is controlled by controversial Australian billionaire businessman James Packer and it executed the first tranche of this deal in June by selling just over 67.67 million of the shares it held in Crown Resorts Limited to Melco Resorts and Entertainment Limited. This initial near 10% sell-off was purportedly due to be followed before the end of next month by a similarly-sized transaction although the buyer declared yesterday that it had postponed its acquisition so as ‘to allow more time for the relevant Australian regulatory processes to be completed.’
Melco is controlled by Hong Kong entrepreneur, Lawrence Ho Yau Lung, and reportedly moreover stated that it was willing to participate in ‘in any probity review process and cooperate with any inquiry’ regarding its acquisition of the shares in Melbourne-headquartered Crown Resorts Limited.
The New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority revealed that it is to additionally use the investigation to determine whether Ho and his representatives are of ‘good repute’ in regards to their ‘character, honesty and integrity’ and if they have connections with ‘any person, body or association who is not of good repute’ or ‘otherwise not suitable to be associated’ with the local gaming license held by Crown.