Billionaire casino tycoons Sheldon Adelson and James Packer were spotted together during a New Year’s Eve bash in the French Caribbean. And that’s prompted speculation that Packer could be in discussions to sell his more than 36 percent stake in Crown Resorts to the Las Vegas Sands founder and CEO.
The UK’s Daily Telegraph broke the news that Adelson, 87, and Packer, 53, were celebrating the end of the most difficult year for their gaming businesses. The media outlet says Packer’s $200 million superyacht was docked next to Adelson’s $70 million Queen Miri. Tender boats were seen going back and forth from the yachts.
According to Forbes, Adelson and Packer are respectively worth $36.3 billion and $3.4 billion. Adelson’s Sands owns casinos in Las Vegas, Singapore, and Macau. Packer’s Crown operates in his native Australia, as well as Crown London Aspinalls.
Packer’s Crown Resorts is amid an investigation in Sydney, officials in New South Wales determining if the casino group is suitable to hold a gaming license in the Australian state. Crown Sydney, a AUD$2.4 billion (USD$1.8 billion) integrated resort, opened last week, but with its casino on hold.
The New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) is set to issue its verdict on Crown’s suitability sometime this month. Lawyers assisting in the ILGA Inquiry suggested that Packer isn’t suitable to be a close associate of Crown Resorts.
Though Packer no longer sits on the Crown board nor has any executive role, he maintains a 36.8 percent stake in the company. During his ILGA testimony, Packer conceded that he would sell his position in the casino group if that would allow Crown Sydney to maintain its gaming license.
Adelson is bullish on casinos located outside the United States. Sands sold the company’s only US casino not in Las Vegas — Sands Bethlehem in Pennsylvania – in 2018 for $1.3 billion. It’s also been reported that Sands is looking to sell its Las Vegas Strip properties — The Venetian and Palazzo.
Adelson has, at least for the moment, called off his company’s interest in investing in Japan. Gaming analysts believe the casino tycoon prefers acquisitions more than new construction. A Crown purchase would fall in line with that thinking, and give Adelson two casinos in Australia — Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth — and possibly a third with Crown Sydney.
As it awaits the NSW Inquiry verdict, Crown Resorts is doing all it can to help prop up its public image. The company, which has been accused of failing to prevent its casinos from being used to launder money, recently changed its deposit rules for gamblers.
Crown also announced in November that it would only work with VIP junket groups that are fully licensed in the jurisdiction where its casinos are located. Crown appointed its first financial crimes officer, too.
Critics say Crown’s efforts come too late.
“Crown has acted with impunity and arrogance for years,” opined Tim Costello, a reverend and CEO of World Vision Australia, a nonprofit that advocates for the poor. “Now they are desperate to prove that they are a fit and proper organization.”
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