(Adds statement from Crown)
SYDNEY, Nov 18 (Reuters) - An Australian state gambling regulator said on Wednesday it was suspending the gaming licence of casino giant Crown Resorts Ltd, citing money laundering concerns, delaying the firm’s plan to open a $1.6 billion resort in Sydney next month.
The New South Wales state Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority (ILGA), which was to give a ruling on Crown’s new casino next February, said it made the unscheduled move after an inquiry into the company received new evidence late on Tuesday.
“It looks like they’ve had some analysis done, and it looks like it’s positive that money laundering transactions have been identified,” ILGA Chair Philip Crawford told reporters.
“That gives us great concern. It means basically dealing with the proceeds of crime. We’re talking about potentially drugs, we’re talking about child sexual exploitation, we’re talking about sex trafficking, we’re talking about financing terrorism.”
Crown said in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange it would open its Sydney location without gambling elements in December.
“Crown will continue to focus on opening the non-gaming operations at Crown Sydney,” the company said.
Crown, which has casinos in Melbourne and Perth, had planned to open its Sydney waterfront resort in mid-December to capitalise on the peak of the Australian summer holiday period.
At the inquiry, the company acknowledged the possibility of money laundering taking place at another of its casinos. It has also said it had cut ties with tour operators suspected of being associated with launderers.
An inquiry into Crown was called after 2019 media reports accused the firm of dealing with gambling tour operators with links to organised crime to bring Chinese high rollers to Melbourne.
Crawford said the licence suspension would hold until the regulator met in February to discuss a permanent response to the inquiry’s recommendations due late in January.
In the meantime, he said, ILGA was prepared to discuss a limited opening of Crown’s restaurants, bars and other non-gambling operations in Sydney, but “without those approvals, they won’t be opening”. (Reporting by Byron Kaye; Additional reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Christopher Cushing)
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