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Crown stake sale to Melco faces probe after media allegations

New South Wales regulators have launched a probe into the sale of a stake in Crown Resorts to Melco Resorts & Entertainment following an investigative news report alleging illegal operations.

The NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority will conduct an inquiry under the NSW Casino Control Act, it said in a news release.

The sale of half of billionaire James Packer’s stake to Melco for about $1.75 billion was announced in May and has not yet been finalised. 

“The Authority is inquiring into this transaction under section 35 of the Act together with various matters raised in recent media reports published by the Nine Network, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age relating to Crown Resorts,” it said.

“The Authority is to have regard to the primary objects of the Act in exercising its functions.

This includes ensuring that the management and operation of a casino remain free from criminal influence or exploitation, that gaming in a casino is conducted honestly and controlling the potential of a casino to cause harm to the public interest and to individuals and families.”

According to The Guardian, Crown sold the stake to a director of a banned company. Melco CEO Lawrence Ho was a director of Lanceford, a company owned by his father, up until June 28th, the newspaper reported. 

A list of companies and people associated with Stanley Ho and therefore banned, was tabled in NSW’s parliament, the report said. One of the conditions of Crown’s license to operate a high-end property in Sydney was that Crown should not do business with anyone on the list. 

The regulator said it has issued notices to Crown parties and others involved, compulsorily seeking documents and information. It didn’t name “other parties.” 

The inquiry will be headed by former Supreme Court of New South Wales judge, the Honourable Patricia Bergin.

Naomi Sharp SC and Scott Aspinall will be appointed as counsel assisting the inquiry. Since her retirement from the Court in 2017, Bergin served an International Judge on the Singapore International Commercial Court.

The inquiry will take evidence in public, with the capacity to conduct private hearings to receive confidential information from law enforcement or other sensitive information.

Asia Gaming Brief is a news and intelligence service providing up to date market information for worldwide executives on relevant gaming issues in Asia.

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