- »Crown Settles Barangaroo, Faces NSW Inquiry
Crown Settles Barangaroo, Faces NSW Inquiry
Crown Resorts finally ends its three-year legal squabble with the New South Wales government. The latter dropped its case after the parties reached an out-of-court settlement.
Even so, the NSW courts are in the process of deciding if Crown is fit to even hold its gambling license, the result of which will determine if the Barangaroo project is truly in the clear or not.
The Case of the Perfect View
Crown and Lendlease, the latter of which manages constructions projects, were in court due to a case from the NSW government.
The case centered on the view of the Harbor Bridge and Opera House. Basically, Crown and Lendlease paid for an exclusive view, but a government agency tried to negotiate with other companies to give that view away. The view was a hotly-contested part of the entire project.
Let’s go back a bit.
The Barangaroo Delivery Authority (BDA), an arm of the NSW government, approved the Crown and Lendlease properties with a particular view of the harbor. It was expensive, but the companies wanted the rights to a certain view that would be exclusive to their properties.
Crown and Lendlease soon found out that the BDA took bids from other companies for a taller Barangaroo property. Companies involved in Barangaroo Central included Grocon, Scentre, and Aqualand, and the deal would increase their floor space and partially obstruct the views from Crown and Lendlease towers.
The two original Barangaroo companies took the BDA to court.
Crown Wins Round One
By December 2018, the case was at the NSW Supreme Court, which ruled for Crown and Lendlease. The BDA was found to have violated its existing development agreements with the two by not bringing Crown and Lendlease in on the final negotiations of Barangaroo Central.
Per the agreement between Crown and Lendlease and the NSW government, the two companies have a right to maintain their “sight lines” in view from the properties. Thusly, the BDA had a legal duty to consult all stakeholders, as the newer properties would obstruct the views of eventual inhabitants of the Crown and Lendlease properties.
Two months later, the BDA filed its appeal.
Match Called for Settlement
The court was set to rule on the appeal this month.
However, the parties had been meeting behind closed doors to try to reach a settlement. And they did, which led to the NSW government dropping its appeal against Crown and Lendlease on August 19. That was the day of the scheduled appeal hearing.
The details of the settlement remain a mystery, but Crown noted that it will retain its views.
A statement emerged from the NSW government, which read, in part: “This resolution between the parties clears the path for the government to work with all parties to complete the final buildings in Barangaroo South and deliver Central Barangaroo, the final stage of the Barangaroo development.”
To further calm the waters, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian directed the Greater Sydney Commission to review the Pyrmont planning rules to assist The Star’s casino project in moving forward.
All parties indicated satisfaction with the settlement and the end of the years-long case.
More Problems Persist
Crown Resorts is now at the center of an investigation led by a former judge, as revealed by the NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority.
The public inquiry will examine allegations of wrongdoing at casinos run by Crown Resorts. This part of the inquiry stems from the investigation by several media outlets that revealed Crown as participating in some form in money laundering and trafficking via Chinese VIP connections.
Further, though, James Packer of Crown is being investigated by the judge for selling nearly 20% of Crown holdings to Hong Kong investor Lawrence Ho, the son of gambling tycoon Stanley Ho with long-suspected ties to criminal organizations.
Judge Patricia Bergin will ultimately decide if Crown is fit to hold a gambling license in New South Wales.
Further, though, Bergin will assess the state’s gambling laws and determine if there should be changes to address issues with Crown that have been uncovered through the media and subsequent investigations.
The basis for Bergin’s investigation is Packer’s decision to sell such a high percentage of Crown Resorts to Ho, which technically breached its gambling license with regard to the Barangaroo project.
The eventual results could find that Crown could make changes to have its license suitability reconsidered, though this could involve Packer canceling all or part of his deal with Ho’s Melco Resorts. And further recommendations by Bergin could lead to changes in the law that could affect all casinos in the area, including the Star.
The goal is for Bergin to determine whether or not NSW’s current licensing laws are fit for “an environment of growing complexity of both extant and emerging risks for gaming and casinos.”
According to the Guardian, Bergin’s investigation has most of the powers of a royal commission.