According to company founder James Packer, Australian casino operator Crown Resorts will launch its new VIP gaming venue in Sydney ahead of schedule.
Crown’s single largest shareholder, James Packer, visited the site of Crown Sydney’s in-development project on Wednesday, which was scheduled to open in H1 2021 at some point. Nevertheless, Packer told local media that before Christmas 2020, the imposing building in the Barangaroo district of Sydney will now open its doors.
Packer, who plans to spend at least part of his time on-site living in the two-story penthouse he purchased for AU$60 m, said the early launch date word was “very pleasing” and “a credit to the Crown team,[ developers] Lend Lease and our architects Wilkinson Ayre.”
Packer’s tour of the project was marred by thick smoke clouds caused by the ongoing wildfire crisis in Australia, which Packer called “the worst thing I’ve ever seen.” The Packer family and Crown have jointly contributed AU$5 million to Australia’s fire relief and recovery efforts, the largest single charitable donation to date.
Now there is just as much smoke surrounding Crown, who spent most of last year defending themselves from claims of improperty concerning their Asian VIP gambler services. Crown faces regulatory checks at both federal and state level, concentrating mostly on the company’s partnerships with Chinese junket operators.
The negative attention may still torpedo Packer’s plan to sell a 20 percent stake in Crown to his former joint venture partner Lawrence Ho, who was revealed last year as a director of a company with which Crown was banned from being a partner. The New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority will launch its investigation on January 21 in the share sale, and Packer has said that if requested, he will attend.
In 2018, Packer suffered a mental breakdown that led him to step down from Crown’s board of directors just one year after he returned to the fold. Packer’s mother this week told local media that her son was “shattered” by Chinese authorities ‘ detention of Crown staff in 2016 for aggressively marketing Crown’s gambling options to local VIPs.