Crown Asked to Delay Gaming Operations at New Sydney Casino

Crown Resorts Ltd. is being urged to delay opening gaming operations at its new Sydney casino while a money-laundering inquiry continues.

The New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority said there were ongoing concerns about Crown’s suitability to run the casino and that evidence heard by the probe was “extremely concerning.”

The Australian casino operator has been rocked by the inquiry that has exposed broad dysfunction and governance failings, and has moved to renew the board and tighten anti-money laundering controls to win back trust. At stake is Crown’s license to operate the Sydney gaming resort, and Patricia Bergin, the retired judge heading the inquiry, is due to issue her report in February.

The authority said Wednesday that any gaming activity at the casino before that report was issued would “pose unacceptable risks on the community against the public interest.”

Crown shares went into a trading halt Wednesday before the announcement.

The $1.5 billion casino and hotel, whose landmark waterfront tower soars high above Sydney’s harbor, aims to draw wealthy gamblers from China and other Asian nations to its members-only tables. That strategy suffered a blow in 2016, when Chinese authorities rounded up Crown staff on the mainland and a court later convicted 19 current and former employees of illegally promoting gambling.

In mid-2019, a string of media reports alleged that criminal gangs laundered cash at Crown’s casinos, and that the company used Asian junket operators with links to drug traffickers. Those reports triggered the inquiry in Sydney that has laid bare Crown’s shortcomings.

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