GAMBLING mogul James Packer says allegations by independent MP Andrew Wilkie of misconduct at Crown’s Melbourne casino are a “lie”.
Mr Packer, who is Crown’s biggest shareholder and who recently rejoined the board, told shareholders yesterday that he was frustrated with Mr Wilkie’s claims made under parliamentary privilege last week.
The billionaire businessman said Crown employees were trained to detect problem gamblers, and that Mr Wilkie’s claims employees in Melbourne were tampering with poker machines, allowing drug use in VIP rooms and using different player ID cards to avoid reporting transactions above $10,000 to Austrac were false.
“This is one of the things that frustrates me. Maybe because we’re a bigger company, maybe because we’re more well known, or maybe because I’m more well known, Andrew Wilkie throws something into parliament which is a lie,” Mr Packer said.
Crown executive chairman John Alexander also denounced the allegations at the company’s annual general meeting, saying they were part of a smear campaign.
“I am angered and disappointed by the outrageous and unfounded allegations levelled at us by Mr Wilkie, which unfairly smeared Crown by asserting that we have acted improperly in relation to our gaming machines and operations,” Mr Alexander said.
“We also do not improperly manipulate our gaming machines. Any employee found breaching our codes and practices would face severe disciplinary consequences.”
At the shareholder meeting Mr Packer also said the detention of 19 Crown Resorts employees in China over most of the past year until their recent release was the main reason the casino operator shifted its strategy from a global to local focus.
“That, in truth, forced the Crown directors’ hand to a large degree in relation to Macau,” Mr Packer said.
Mr Packer said he is confident that Crown’s $2.4 billion luxury hotel and VIP casino project at Barangaroo in Sydney will still go ahead and attract plenty of VIP interest from overseas high rollers.
“As every day passes, I become more confident, not just because I’ve woken up on the right side of the bed,” Mr Packer said.
“That’s because VIP volumes are starting to increase again into Australia, and that’s because Sydney real estate prices continue to hold up.”