Crown casino inquiry won’t stop with Melco retreat


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The licence bans Melco boss Lawrence Ho’s father, Stanley Ho, and his associates from being involved in the Barangaroo casino, which is due to open early next year, because of his alleged links to organised crime.

The inquiry will also look into The Sydney Morning Hearld’s and The Age‘s revelations that Crown went into business with “junket” tour operators linked to Asian organised crime.

A spokesman for the NSW gaming authority on Friday confirmed that “the inquiry will be proceeding” but was not in a position to comment further.

On Thursday, Melco took the regulator to the Supreme Court to challenge the inquiry’s authority to order witnesses to handover information that breaches legal professional privilege, and are waiting on a judgement.

The deal’s collapse will leave Mr Packer with a 36 per cent stake in Crown and Melco with 10 per cent. However, Melco could be forced to sell down those remaining shares if the inquiry finds it is not allowed to own them.

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Independent NSW MP Justin Field said Melco’s retreat could be seen as a “vote of no confidence in Crown, but also a recognition of the risks closer regulatory scrutiny presents for the casino business”.

“The inquiry made clear it will look closely at Melco’s business structure and relationships and Melco may be hoping to avoid some of that by backing out of this transaction,” he said.

Melco offices in Japan, where it is trying to obtain a lucrative casino licence, were raided by police last month as part of a political corruption probe.

The first day of the inquiry, held last month, heard that Mr Packer and Mr Ho would be called to give evidence in public hearings.

The inquiry will resume on February 24 to examine issues including money laundering at casinos, the use of “junkets” to lure Asian high rollers to Australian casinos and their vulnerabilities to organised crime.

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