The New South Wales Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority has put the inquiry into Crown Resorts on hold. The ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is to blame for the postponement.

COVID-19 has hit Australian companies hard, especially the tourism and casino sector. Star Entertainment Group temporarily laid off 90% of its workforce. Crown Resorts stood down approximately 18,500 employees last week.

Nobody knows if Australia’s casinos will ever be the same again. Prime Minister Scott Morrison gave the order for all Aussie casinos to close indefinitely, possibly for six months. The closures are part of a countrywide attempt to slow down the spread of COVID-19.

It’s difficult to extract anything positive from the ongoing worldwide pandemic. The virus has infected more than 1.4 million people claimed the lives of 69,000 people. The situation isn’t as dire in Australia with a shade under 6,000 confirmed cases and “only” 48 deaths. Any loss of life, however, is awful.

Inquiry Paused Following Government Advice

Crown Resorts received some positive news from the NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority on April 5. The ongoing inquiry into Crown’s suitability for a gaming license is now on hold.

“The Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority has decided that most of the work of the Casino Inquiry will be deferred in the current context of the COVID-19 epidemic until it is considered safe and practicable for all public aspects of the work to resume. The inquiry and its public hearings will resume promptly as soon as circumstances allow.”

The regulatory body revealed the decision to pause the inquiry followed advice from the Commonwealth and State Government. Australians are advised against all but crucial travel. Meetings of groups of people are also advised again.

NSW officials were keen to point out the inquiry will resume as soon as circumstances allow.

An Operator That’s Used to Controversy

Crown Resorts is one of the biggest names in Australia and one that often finds itself in the headlines. It isn’t always in the press for the correct reasons either.

The casino received special dispensation from Victoria Government regarding social distancing rules. Crown continued its casino operations resulting in health experts raising many questions. Crown agreed to turn off 50% of its pokies but still faced a vicious backlash from the Australian public.

It has since fully closed its casinos in Perth and Melbourne, although its hotels remain open in a limited capacity.

NSW’s inquiry regards Crown’s links to organised crime, with the Triads featuring prominently. Crown was told it would only receive a gaming licence for its still-under-construction resort in Sydney if it followed strict guidelines.

Crown agreed to not do business with anyone or any company with links to Macau casino magnate Stanley Ho. The controversial Ho has strong tied with organised crime in China. Those ties are so strong his company was denied a casino license to operate the Borgata in New Jersey, USA.

The inquiry started when Aussie billionaire James Packer agreed to sell $1.75 billion worth of Crown shares to Melco Resorts. Lawrence Ho, son of the infamous Stanley Ho, is the CEO of Melco.

Half of the sale went through, netting Packer $880 million, before the NSW stepped in. Lawrence Ho was listed as a director of a blacklisted company at the time he and Packer agreed a deal. That deal breached the agreement Crown Resorts made with the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority.

Another Twist and Turno

The inquiry has taken several twists and turns since it began. An ongoing legal battle saw Melco win the right to keep certain company documents private. NSW won an appeal that forces Melco to submit those private documents. Now this may not happen due to the inquiry’s postponement.

Packer and Melco pulled out of the deal for the remaining agree 50% while the court cases raged on.