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Australia Uneasy lies the Crown on James Packer’s head as Bergin inquiry tenders its report

14:59  09 february  2021
14:59  09 february  2021 Source:   crikey.com.au

NSW's Crown inquiry to report on probity

  NSW's Crown inquiry to report on probity Commissioner Patricia Bergin will hand her findings and recommendations about Crown Resort's fitness to run a Sydney casino to the regulator.The NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority gave commissioner Patricia Bergin until Monday to hand over her findings and recommendations on Crown's suitability to hold a casino licence.

After almost two years of being drip-fed details about the alleged crimes and misdemeanours of Australia’s largest casino operator, the Australian public will soon have the full story on Crown.

James Packer wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Crikey

Former Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin will hand to NSW state parliament today her highly anticipated report into whether the casino giant should keep its Barangaroo licence.

It will end an 18-month inquiry into one of the country’s most powerful entities — one that forever tainted the legacy of its reclusive billionaire owner, James Packer, once the doyen of corporate Australia — and traversed all manner of bombshell testimony, from money laundering to organised crime gangs and secret bank accounts set up to avoid regulators.

‘Unedifying performance': Three Crown directors including Andrew Demetriou facing pressure to resign

  ‘Unedifying performance': Three Crown directors including Andrew Demetriou facing pressure to resign At least three members of the Crown board are under pressure to resign, including the group's managing director Andrew Demetriou.Former Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin handed down a landmark report into the casino company that put Crown's flagship Barangaroo project in Sydney at risk by finding the company was not suitable to hold a NSW casino licence.

James Packer wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Crikey

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Whether the public will get to read the report straightaway is unclear — the findings are being released under parliamentary privilege so the state government can defend itself against any defamation action launched by the casino giant’s executives.

But there are a few things we can expect.

Suitability to hold a licence

The biggest threat facing Crown is that it loses its licence to operate the new $2.2 billion casino in Barangaroo. It has been forced to push back opening its gaming floor until after the report. Restaurants and bars are already open.

It could also face new conditions under which to operate, including caps on shareholding which would force Packer to sell his shares in Crown — something he suggested during the inquiry.

Gambling card a ‘powerful mechanism' to stop organised crime: Bergin

  Gambling card a ‘powerful mechanism' to stop organised crime: Bergin The Bergin report into Crown Resorts says a proposed NSW government-issued gambling card would combat organised crime.Commissioner Patricia Bergin's scathing report into the suitability of the gambling giant to hold a licence for its new Sydney casino in Barangaroo found evidence of money laundering at Crown's Melbourne and Perth casinos.

The company could also be fined, as some ratings agencies have already forecast.

Reputations at risk

At stake is much more than a casino licence. The executives that once stood atop one of the most powerful business empires face having their reputations blown apart.

The fact that the government is releasing the report under parliamentary privilege suggests it will make adverse findings against senior figures inside the Crown business. These findings are likely to deal with the question of whether Crown’s biggest shareholder, Packer, should remain approved as a “close associate” of the Barangaroo casino.

Shareholders misled?

Another question is whether minority shareholders were misled about the status of Packer’s involvement in deals.

The inquiry heard Packer’s closest associate, Michael Johnson, fed confidential financial information about Crown to Melco while it was negotiating a sale to Melco, and that Packer sent a threatening email to a Melbourne businessman after a deal to sell Crown fell over. Packer blamed the email on his recent diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

The NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority will meet this month to consider the Bergin report’s recommendations.

While the report is likely to etch into stone some of the extraordinary findings from the inquiry, it may also be just another milestone in the remarkable downfall of Packer’s casino dynasty.

The post Uneasy lies the Crown on James Packer’s head as Bergin inquiry tenders its report appeared first on Crikey.

Demetriou latest to resign from Crown .
Chief executive Ken Barton and director Andrew Demetriou are the latest casualties of a scathing review of casino giant Crown Resorts.Chief executive Ken Barton looked set to become the third director to head for the exit on Thursday, with reports he agreed to step down after meeting with the company's chair Helen Coonan.

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