The decision to temporarily ban Crown Resorts from opening its new Sydney Casino has thrown into disarray the gaming giant’s planned opening of its $2.2 billion development at Barangaroo, which includes a casino, 14 bars and restaurants, and a 350-room hotel.
NSW’s Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) made the announcement less than 24 hours after Crown admitted to an inquiry that accounts it set up for VIP players could have been used for money laundering.
The inquiry, which is also being run by the ILGA before Commissioner Patricia Bergin, SC, has been examining Crown’s fitness to hold its 99-year licence for the casino since February.
Hearings are in their final stages, but Crown dropped a bombshell by tendering the money laundering admissions late last night.
ILGA chairman Philip Crawford said: “We had no notice that was being done, I don’t think the Bergin inquiry or counsel assisting were aware of it and it’s come at the eleventh hour, literally — apparently 11:00 last night.”
Mr Crawford said the ILGA had been “surprised” by Crown’s admission and was “not comfortable” with it opening next month.
“Because when we talk about money laundering … we’re talking about potential drugs, child sexual exploitation, people trafficking and financing terrorism … you can see why we have concern,” he said.
Commissioner Bergin is due to hand down her findings in February, and Mr Crawford said the ILGA would reassess its decision after reading them.
Mr Crawford said the ILGA had attempted to work with Crown to allow other parts of the development to open.
“We did suggest originally with Crown we would be happy to talk to them about a limited opening, that is their hotel, their bars, their restaurants,” he said.
“Initially they didn’t take us up [on that] and wanted to have a graduated opening including gaming. We’re not comfortable with that.”
In a statement released by Crown on Wednesday afternoon, the company acknowledged gaming was now off the table but said there were plans to open other parts of the Barangaroo development next month.
“Crown will focus on opening the non-gaming operations at Crown Sydney, in consultation with ILGA, in the absence of the commencement of gaming operations.”