Crown Sydney opens with no casino, amidst new NSW Covid outbreak

Crown Barangaroo

Crown Resorts opened the doors to its A$2.2 billion ($1.66 billion) Crown Sydney property on Monday, but without the fanfare that accompanies the openings of such mega projects after a bruising year of suitability hearings and amidst a new cluster of Covid-19 cases in the city.

The company decided to forge ahead with its plans to open after receiving a provisional liquor license from the Liquor and Gaming NSW. However, the casino component, which was designed to cater for high rollers from Asia, will remain shuttered until regulators give their response to findings in the probe. 

It was an event that was hard to miss in the gambling world, but to recap, Crown’s suitability to hold a license for the Sydney property has undergone a year-long investigation after investigative news reports alleged links to organized crime, money laundering and facilitating visas for VIPs. Testimony from executives revealed serious lapses in corporate governance, including a last-minute admission there may have been money laundering through its casinos. 

Within the next month, Crown should hear what remedies it will need to undertake to retain its license, which some analysts have said may now be suspended for some time given the seriousness of the findings. Major shareholder, James Packer, may also be required to disinvest his holdings after counsel in the probe also found him unsuitable. 

There’s a lot at stake and not just for the company. According to a benefit assessment from the Allen Consulting Group, the project was expected to boost gross state product by $638 million by 2022, once it’s fully operational. 

Crown is recruiting about 2,000 people to work in the resort, with as many as 3,300 indirect posts likely to be created. The assessment was counting on Crown’s ability to create a centrepiece for Sydney, capable of drawing in millions of VIP visitors, predominantly from Asia. 

Since those initial estimates, the business climate has changed dramatically, even before the Covid-19 border closures and local social distancing measures. China’s VIP market has been weakening due to trade tensions with the U.S. and Australia, while the property is not permitted to offer the slot machine gaming popular with the domestic market. 

On Monday, the company debuted the Crown Towers hotel, which features 349 guest rooms and 22 luxury villas. The company says the sculptural form of the building is reminiscent of three petals intertwining together towards the sky and is designed by award-winning British architecture firm Wilkinson Eyre.

There are 14 restaurants and bars on site, which also opened on Monday.