After 17 months in limbo, Australia’s Crown Resorts will take bets in Sydney

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June 22 (Reuters) – Australia’s largest state on Wednesday allowed casino operator Crown Resorts Ltd (CWN.AX) to take bets at a 2.2 billion Australian dollar ($1.5 billion) casino in Sydney, a breakthrough after a money laundering scandal crippled its growth plans.

The decision by the New South Wales gambling regulator ends a state of uncertainty for Crown’s new resort, whose license was suspended just before it opened 17 months ago, amid alleged circumvention of anti-money laundering rules and dysfunctional governance of its other assets.

It also brings a bittersweet resolution to the company’s billionaire founder and 37% shareholder James Packer, who spent years campaigning for permission to build Sydney’s tallest skyscraper, which he once called his gift to his hometown.

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Following what became three state regulatory investigations into Crown, all of which found it unsuitable for a gambling license, the company agreed to an A$8.9 billion takeover by the private equity giant. investment Blackstone Inc (BX.N), below its market value before the probes began and COVID-19 movement restrictions crushed its earnings. Blackstone takes control of the company on Friday.

“Crown has rebuilt its gaming model from the ground up, which has resulted in a profound structural change around governance, anti-money laundering measures and corporate culture,” said Philip Crawford, chairman of the NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority.

“With a comprehensive board and senior management cleanup, Crown has made significant progress,” Crawford added in a statement that also noted that his licensing approval would remain conditional for up to two years.

In Victoria and Western Australia, the states where Crown already had operational casinos before the investigations, regulators let the company continue taking bets under two years of government oversight, citing the need to protect jobs.

A representative for Packer was not immediately available for comment, while Blackstone declined to comment.

Crown said it had worked closely with regulators and the government to restructure its business and remained focused on completing its reform agenda. The company planned to employ more than 2,000 people in Sydney, helping the city’s hospitality industry in the wake of the pandemic.

Chief executive Steve McCann, who took over in October 2021, 10 months after the Sydney resort opened without its casino, said the company was finalizing plans for a full opening.

($1 = 1.4422 Australian dollars)

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Reporting by Byron Kaye in Sydney and Harish Sridharan in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Christopher Cushing

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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