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James Packer to front WA royal commission

Billionaire James Packer will front a royal commission examining Crown’s Perth casino licence, days after the gaming group was castigated by a Victorian inquiry.

Mr Packer, a former Crown Resorts director and the company’s major shareholder, will front the West Australian probe via videolink on Friday.

Victoria’s royal commission this week described Crown’s behaviour as “illegal, dishonest, unethical and exploitative”.

But the commission, headed by former Federal Court judge Ray Finkelstein QC, stopped short of recommending Crown should lose its Melbourne casino licence.

Instead, it was recommended Crown continue operating under the oversight of a special manager for two years while it undertakes comprehensive reforms.

The WA inquiry is due to deliver its final report in March 2022.

Evidence has previously been heard about Mr Packer’s links to former Crown director and Perth investment banker John Poynton.

Mr Poynton replaced Mr Packer on Crown’s board in 2018 as a nominee of the billionaire’s company Consolidated Press Holdings.

The royal commission has heard Mr Poynton had signed a consultancy agreement with CPH for which he received a $50,000 annual fee. It included a clause that he disclose confidential information relating to Crown Resorts “on demand”.

Mr Poynton has testified he never provided confidential information to Mr Packer or CPH. He resigned in February as a non-executive Crown director and chair of subsidiary company Burswood Limited.

The royal commission is investigating whether the West Australian casino regulator effectively allowed Crown to self-regulate aspects of its Perth operations.

An interim report highlighted changes including the deregulation of junket operations and the reduced use of inspectors, who had not been permanently present on the casino floor since mid-2015.

The NSW Bergin report released earlier this year found Crown had “enabled or facilitated” money laundering at its Perth casino through an account linked to a shell company, Riverbank Investments.

WA’s inquiry has heard the state’s Gaming and Wagering Commission opted not to investigate allegations of money laundering against Crown after the company’s “persuasive” former legal boss told them it was a media beat-up.

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