Melco Resorts & Entertainment has scored a major victory regarding the inquiry into its gaming licence suitability.
The casino operator challenged New South Wales’ gambling regulator’s demands for specific company documents. New South Wales Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority (ILGA) requested Melco produce sensitive documentation for scrutiny at the inquiry.
ILGA hoped the documents would should significant ties between Melco Resorts’ Chief Operating Officer (CEO) Lawrence Ho and companies linked to his controversial father Stanley Ho. Evidence points to Ho senior having links with organised crime syndicates.
Melco Resorts’ stance is it operates 100% legally and is completely free of Stanley Ho’s influence. Lawrence Ho’s lawyers challenged the ILGA’s demands at the New South Wales Supreme Court.
NSW Supreme Court Rules In Favour of Melco Resorts
Lawrence Ho’s legal team filed a legal challenge to the ILGA’s demands on Monday. Furthermore, Melco claims an attorney-client privilege protects the requested documents. Additionally, Court papers show Melco Resorts question the legality of the ILGA overriding such privileges.
The New South Wales Supreme Court ruled in favour of Melco Resorts on Tuesday. It ruled the ILGA lacked the legal authority to force Melco Resorts to produce the aforementioned documents.
NSW Supreme Court Justice Christine Adamson confirmed the NSW parliament hadn’t granted ILGA the powers allowed under the Royal Commission Act. She added the courts “ought not be left to guess as to parliament’s intentions.”
Why Is ILGA Holding an Inquiry?
Rumours of a potential inquiry surfaced when Melco Resorts announced it was purchasing more Crown Resorts stock.
Billionaire James Packer agreed to sell 19.9% of his Crown holding to Lawrence Ho and, therefore, Melco Resorts. Ho agreed to pay a fee of $880 million. Ho acquired 10% of those shares with little to no resistance, but the ILGA stepped in eventually.
As mentioned earlier, Lawrence Ho is the son of casino mogul Stanley Ho. Ho senior has strong ties with organised crime throughout China, according to allegations. Furthermore, Stanley Ho held a monopoly in Macau’s casino sector for several years. Lawrence Ho maintains his business interests are separate from his father’s.
The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) deemed Stanley Ho unsuitable to hold a gaming licence. DGE investigated Stanley ho when the MGM Resorts wanted to operate the Borgata casino in Atlantic City.
It concluded Stanley Ho is an associate of the Sun Yee On triads. The deal never happened in light of this investigation.
This, in turn, led to terms and conditions placed on Crown Resorts’ Barangaroo casino development in Sydney. The local government prohibited “any new business activities or transaction of a material nature between Stanley Hung Sun Ho or a Stanley Ho associate and Crown, any of Crown’s officers, directors or employees of any Crown subsidiary.
Crown agreed to avoid doing business with a list of 55 companies and five individuals, all linked to Stanley Ho. One of the blacklisted companies, Lanceford Company Ltd, listed Lawrence Ho as a director. His name is no longer linked to the company but was when Crown signed the agreement.
Is the Melco Resorts Inquiry Now a Waste of Time?
It makes you wonder if the ILGA will continue its inquiry because, in all honesty, it seems a pointless exercise. This legal ruling means ILGA won’t receive the necessary documents to complete its inquiry.
Furthermore, Melco Resorts pulled out of acquiring the additional 10% of Packer’s holding. This means the ILGA don’t need to probe the suitability of the Melco Resorts executives.
Also, the plug won’t be pulled on the Barangaroo development because it’s practically completed. Packer visited the Sydney complex in January and stated it will open its doors before Christmas. There is almost zero possibility that Crown will not be allowed to operate its Sydney casino.
The ILGA said it is “considering today’s court judgment and how it may impact the running of the inquiry.”