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Crown Resorts ‘very close’ to clinching Sydney casino licence

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Crown Sydney is on the verge of obtaining a casino licence in NSW, according to CEO Stave McCann. (Photo: Crown Resorts)

As the operator waits for the granting of a casino licence for its Barangaroo property in Sydney, Crown Resorts Chief Executive Steve McCann claims that the company’s huge restoration operations have generated perhaps “the best gambling environment” in the world.

He insisted that Crown was “very close” to getting the regulators and New South Wales government to approve its casino licence.

“But what I think is more important is that we can really assure the government, the regulators, but also the community in general, that this will be the best gambling environment – certainly in the country – and probably in the world,” McCann said.

Crown’s casino license for Barangaroo was revoked in late 2020 following a catastrophic public inquiry into its practices by the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority, which ruled Crown unfit to operate.

Crown requires a change in management if it ever wants to obtain a casino licence in NSW, according to the inquiry’s report issued in February last year, which also said the state’s gambling authorities should reassess James Packer’s participation.

McCann did not hide his displeasure with casinos around the world for pursuing the “low-hanging fruit” of Chinese gamblers without understanding the risks involved in attracting that market.

“There’s no doubt that, as a country, we had a pretty poor grasp of what the financial crime rules, issues, regulations were,” he said.

“I think one of the biggest mistakes the industry has made, and this is not an Australian-specific issue, is going after the low-hanging fruit without having regard to the issues that that was going to give rise to.

“There’s no doubt that as a country, we had a pretty poor grasp of what the financial crime rules, issues, regulations were.”

Later this month, the state government is likely to authorise a strict conditional licence for the gaming tycoon.

READ: Crown Melbourne fined $80m over China UnionPay scandal

The prospective licence would be for a two-year term initially, and the contract would also give Crown suitor Blackstone the go-ahead to buy the company.

Crown Resorts shareholders recently accepted an $8.9 billion buyout offer from the private equity firm, thereby putting an end to nearly three years of turmoil within the casino empire.

However, because gambling authorities in Victoria, Western Australia, and NSW have still not granted Blackstone probity clearance to run Crown’s three casinos in Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney, it is uncertain when the acquisition will be completed.

Should the deal be completed, it will enable Packer to exit the company more than a decade after he began the process of obtaining a gaming licence for Crown to erect a luxury hotel at Barangaroo to draw Chinese high-rollers.

The Independent Casino Commission, a “committed, stand-alone, expert casino regulator with the required structure to manage the present and growing hazards for gaming and casinos”, was recommended by the recent inquiry.

The NSW cabinet approved the new casino body in August of last year, and the state has been preparing legislation to develop it.

Crown Resorts advertised job openings for its gaming team, as well as a general manager for its Barangaroo casino, on Friday in anticipation of the licence being issued. 

Crown has roughly 1,900 openings to cover within its Australian operations. This includes 500 positions in Barangaroo, which will increase to 700 as soon as the gaming operation is approved, according to Crown.

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