Packer set ‘dubious tone’ from Crown’s top

Business mogul James Packer spread a culture of denial and arrogant indifference to regulatory compliance from the top of casino giant Crown Resorts, an inquiry by the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority has been told.

The billionaire, formerly the company’s executive chairman and currently a major shareholder, set a “dubious tone from the top” in relation to Chinese junket operators who brought high-rollers to Crown’s Australian casinos, counsel assisting Naomi Sharp SC said. 

Mr Packer monitored Crown’s VIP international business closely and “drove a culture that put the pursuit of profits above all else,” Ms Sharp alleged in closing submissions on Friday.

She also said Crown’s dealings with junket operators revealed serious cultural problems including a culture of denial and a culture of “arrogant indifference to regulatory compliance”.

It was thus unsuitable to hold the licence for a new $2.2 billion casino in Sydney.

Ms Sharp also argued Crown’s response to evidence unearthed in the inquiry and the media was largely tokenistic and insufficient to prove its fitness to operate the casino.

Crown Resorts repeatedly dealt with Chinese junket operators despite being on notice they were connected to organised crime, including in media reports as early as 2014 which it dismissed as unsubstantiated when it should have investigated them.

The inquiry has previously heard many of the media allegations were true. 

Instead of approaching warning signs with caution, the publicly-listed company adopted an approach of “if in doubt, rule it in”, according to Ms Sharp. 

“That reverses the onus of what … a casino operator in Victoria or NSW needs to do,” she said.

“Reputation, integrity, honesty are the things that matter here.”

The inquiry was told on Thursday Mr Packer’s “profound influence” over Crown’s affairs negatively impacted the company’s culture and governance. 

The inquiry has examined whether Crown’s NSW licence was violated when Mr Packer’s private company, Consolidated Press Holdings, attempted to sell 19.99 per cent of its stock in 2019 to the banned Melco Resorts. It has also examined money laundering at Crown casinos.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is seeking urgent advice on the matter and has not ruled out pushing back the December opening date for the Barangaroo development.

Inquiry commissioner Patricia Bergin is expected to deliver a final report on February 1. 

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