SYDNEY, Nov 5 (Reuters) - An Australian regulatory inquiry
raised the prospect on Thursday of cancelling the casino licence
of gambling giant Crown Resorts Ltd over alleged
corporate governance failures, casting a shadow over the company
weeks before a $1.6 billion resort opening.
The lawyer conducting hearings into the allegations also
called for restrictions on the influence of Crown's billionaire
founder and 36% owner James Packer, including rethinking
Packer's status as a registered associate and forcing him to
sell down his stake.
Although the summing-up remarks by the lawyer, Adam Bell,
are not binding, they show the inquiry contemplating the most
damaging response possible for a company that has pegged its
future to a 75-floor Sydney complex since a mass arrest of staff
in China four years ago forced it to abandon its offshore
As it nears the Sydney launch next month, a state gambling
regulator is holding an inquiry into whether it should keep its
licence since media reports accused Crown of dealing with tour
operators with ties to organised crime, among other allegations.
If Crown could not work with the authorities to meet the
criteria of a "suitable" casino licensee, "one option may be for
the authority to suspend the licence, coupled with the
conditions ... that if satisfied would bring suspension to an
end", Bell told the inquiry.
"Another option ... is cancelling the licence," he added.
The hearings have scrutinised Packer's influence over the
company, including claims he received frequent trading updates
and gave directions despite holding no role at the company, and
threatened business associates as he sought, unsuccessfully, to
take the company private.
"You should recommend to the (casino) authority that it
reconsider its approval of Mr Packer as a close associate of the
licensee with regard to his conduct," Bell said.
Packer had, in hearings, cited mental illness as a reason
for sending threatening emails to an unnamed business associate,
but "there's been no medical evidence presented to this inquiry
by Mr Packer to support a causal connection between his
conduct... and bipolar disorder or any other medical condition",
"The evidence presented to this inquiry demonstrates that Mr
Packer's profound influence ... had an adverse impact on its
good governance, and culture and accountability."
Bell suggested enforced limits on Packer's shareholding,
voting rights, board influence and access to confidential
The retired judge overseeing the inquiry gives formal
recommendations by February. The hearing continues.
($1 = 1.3947 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Raju