NSW gambling laws overhaul

Continued and increased allegations into Crown Casino’s experience and activities have apparently transformed into a small problem for the imminent sale of his massive share in the business.

A public inquiry into Crown Resorts financial status will thoroughly investigation about the state in which the business currently is, and more importantly, if the remaining shares were Packers’s to sell, to begin with. As every casino sale must be approved by the appropriate gambling commission, investigations that will take place at the premises will ultimately be the deciding factor in the eventual sale of the remaining shares.

Released by the NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority on Thursday, the Terms of reference, present the inquiry, to be conducted and headed by Patricia Bergin, a former judge which will also investigate whether Packer’s decision to sell almost 20% of Crown to Hong Kong billionaire Lawrence Ho breached the gambling group’s license to build a high-roller casino at Barangaroo in Sydney.

If she believes that the Packer-owned entity or any of its subsidiaries do not fit to the constraints of the Barangaroo license under which they function, she has the sole responsibility of deciding about how and what changes should be suitable for the availability to be confirmed.

The $1b Barangaroo casino is the whole ball game here for Crown, a construction that is set to be situated near the Sydney Harbour. The project was proposed in 2012 in a hail-mary attempt to lure VIP international gamblers to Australia and to Crown.

Being one of the most, if not the most fierce rival of Packer, Star is directly interested in the matter and will, most definitely, watch closely as the story unfolds and the results are in.

Also, Bergin has also been asked to report on whether the laws of the NSW are suitable and fit for the given purpose. The transaction was already been set in motion and put in place for about half of the expected shares, about 10%, but Packer and Ho publicly declared that the transfer is on thin ice and that it solely depends on the results of the investigation and the approval from state authorities in Western Australia and Victoria.

The one that has been asked to look into the allegations published by the newspapers is Bergin, responsible for investigating all of the grave accusations and allegations that have been launched at Crown Casino over the years.

Also, he has been delegated to find out if Ho or any other of his associates that will be involved here “have any business association with any person, body or association who is not of good repute, having regard to character, honesty, integrity, or has undesirable or unsatisfactory financial sources”.

A provision in the Barangaroo license bans Lawrence Ho’s father Stanley Ho, along with some other members of the Ho family and a number of companies associated with them, from being involved with Barangaroo.

Coming from a family of great wealth and good standing in the business world Ho has been forever in the eyes of the public, mainly because of his father, the one that made the family name and made it reach new barriers. Accusations of links with organized crime have flooded the Ho family throughout the years, but not much has been proven, at least until now.

The ban list was secret until 8 August, when it was tabled in NSW parliament following a request from independent upper house MP Justin Field. Also, the current holder of the Ho family fortune, Lawrence, was the CEO of a company that was denied the possibility of buying some shares in the Packer-owned Crown Casino.

Also, there are serious concerns about the validity of Melco’s request to be a part of the Crown board of directors, as they already own a large stake in a rival group, Great Respect.

Also, this is not the first company that Ho has bough from Packer, as the Asian businessman has already completed a purchase of shares from CPH, a Packer-owned company.

At the time the deal was unveiled, Melco said it “does not require regulatory approval to be consummated”.

However, an updated sale agreement, filed with the Australian stock exchange on Thursday morning, now contains a condition requiring a letter from authorities in New South Wales, Western Australia and Victoria stating Melco “is a suitable person to be associated with the management of a casino, each such notification being unconditional, or on conditions acceptable to the buyer acting reasonably”.

Since the sale was announced Crown has been rocked by allegations of links to money-laundering operations, organized crime influence and special treatment at the border for high-roller gamblers.