Crown lawyer says NSW casino should open

Ethan James
·2-min read

Crown Resorts should be able to open its $2.2 billion Sydney casino next month as a "working test" of its operations, a lawyer representing the company says.

The future of the towering hotel, casino and entertainment complex is under a cloud amid an Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority probe examining whether Crown is fit to run the gaming operation.

The regulator announced on Wednesday it was withholding regulatory approval for Crown to open the casino in mid-December until the inquiry hands down its report.

The extraordinary inquiry has previously heard evidence the company facilitated money laundering, partnered with dodgy junket operators and had a poor culture.

"Many of the matters the authority may wish to be satisfied about are going to be matters that require a working test, as it were," Crown's lawyer Neil Young QC told the hearing on Thursday.

"That is best addressed by allowing the casino to operate and then very closely monitoring, reviewing and having an audit after two months ... of how it's running.

"We don't suggest that there needs to be, in the overall scheme ... a complete postponement of the commencement of operations."

Mr Young said the company was reviewing its culture and would conduct a full report into operations a year after the casino opens.

"The Crown board ... is trying to address the issues in the fullest and most appropriate way," he said.

Mr Young suggested Crown's junket partners could be made to pass a probity test and be licensed by regulators.

He rejected recommendations from lawyers assisting the inquiry that major shareholder and billionaire James Packer be forced to dilute his shareholding in Crown.

Counsel assisting recommended Mr Packer's company Consolidated Press Holdings not exercise more than 10 per cent of its voting power.

Mr Young said this was not necessary as there was no evidence CPH intended to use its voting power inappropriately.

He said the board had already reduced the influence of CPH and Mr Packer by terminating an agreement that allowed them access to certain Crown information.

Mr Young said Crown and CPH's relationship will be "no different" to that of any public company and its major shareholder.

The ILGA on Wednesday said allowing gambling to take place at the Barangaroo casino before the inquiry delivers a final report in February would pose an unacceptable community risk.

Crown says it will continue to focus on opening non-gaming operations until February.

Crown's lawyers have admitted that money was likely laundered through its bank accounts, but sought to persuade inquiry commissioner Patricia Bergin that subsequent reforms meant it was now fit to hold the casino licence.