The Crown Resorts shareholder has described the ongoing New South Wales inquiry as a “painful” and “terribly shocking experience”.
Australia.- In his last day appearing at the public inquiry into Crown Resorts, gaming billionaire James Packer admitted that he might have to sell part of his stake in the company.
The former director of the Australian casino operator said he was ready to cut his stake and declared that he would never re-join the operator’s board, as long as the firm was able to keep the casino licence for the AU$2.4 billion property it is building at Barangaroo.
He said the inquiry was a “painful” and a “terribly shocking experience” as he was accused of dealing with criminals and trying to land a prohibited deal with Hong Kong’s “king of gambling” Stanley Ho, and his son, Melco CEO Lawrence Ho.
“This has been a terribly painful and terribly shocking experience for the board, as it has been for me. I won’t be going on the board again, I think the board will be more independent than it was in the past,” Packer said.
During the Liquor & Gaming NSW (ILGA) inquiry, Crown Resorts was accused of associating with VIP guests with known connections to organised crime, and letting them use unsupervised bank accounts when they were brought to gamble in Australian casinos.
Speaking about the Sydney casino, Packer admitted “I thought that the inbound Chinese tourism market was going to continue to grow in Australia at double digits, and I was clearly wrong about that.”
Packer, who still owns 37 per cent of Crown, no longer has any operational role after quitting its board. He now accepted some cap on shareholding is needed at Crown.
The former CEO was questioned by lawyer Naomi Sharp, who told the inquiry Crown had placed full-page newspaper advertisements saying that Crown’s only junket was Hong Kong-listed Suncity Group Holdings, when the firm used at least four junkets in the region.
Packer agreed “with the benefit of hindsight” that parts of the advertisements were wrong, including claims that Crown had a robust vetting system for junket operators.