Watchdogs approve $8.9b Crown takeover

·2-min read

Gaming regulators in Victoria and NSW have approved Blackstone's $8.9 billion takeover of Crown Resorts, pushing the proposed sale of the James Packer-backed casino operator a step closer to completion.

The purchase by the US private equity giant now requires regulatory approval from authorities in Western Australia, the third state where Crown's casinos are located. The deal would then need to be ratified by the Federal Court.

Blackstone is one of the world's biggest private equity firms, boasting a diverse portfolio ranging from food and telecommunications assets to casinos.

Crown, along with rival Star, has been subjected to numerous inquiries that have found widespread failings, including poor practices that are designed to protect against money laundering.

Investors welcomed the news of the regulatory approval on Thursday, sending shares in the listed casino operator up by more than 2 per cent. Shareholders voted to accept Blackstone's takeover offer last month.

Crown runs casinos in Melbourne and Perth, but has been unable to offer gaming services in its new waterfront Sydney location because of restrictions on its licence.

The opening was at first delayed and then blocked after an inquiry by the gaming authority ruled Crown was not fit to operate. The NSW gaming authority has been working with Crown on plans for a conditional opening of gaming at the casino.

Victoria's casino regulator issued a series of sale conditions on Thursday, including a requirement that Crown Melbourne's board must be majority independent.

Other conditions include improved reporting of anti-money laundering and responsible gambling activities, and additional auditing requirements.

"In reaching this decision, our specialist team put in many months of work investigating the suitability of the Blackstone Group to become an associate of the Melbourne casino operator," Victoria's gambling commission chair Fran Thorn said.

"Our approval comes with stringent conditions which balance delivering stronger controls on the casino and ensuring it continues to be the flagship casino in Australia.

"We will take action should any of these conditions not be met by either Blackstone or Crown."

NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority chairman Philip Crawford said Blackstone had been subjected to an extensive probity assessment.

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