By Byron Kaye

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian casino billionaire James Packer on Thursday said international tour operators helped Chinese gamblers circumvent Chinese capital controls, and that his company gave incorrect public statements distancing itself from the so-called junkets.

The Crown Resorts Ltd <CWN.AX> founder and one-third owner shared his perception of the travel agents who bring gamblers, often from China, to casinos at an Australian government inquiry. The inquiry is being held to determine whether the company should be allowed to run a A$2.2 billion ($1.6 billion) casino in Sydney’s tallest building.

So far during the inquiry, taking place just two months before the 75-floor tower’s scheduled opening, Packer has agreed that he sold a stake in Crown to Hong Kong’s Melco Resorts & Entertainment Ltd <MLCO.O> contrary to a ban on doing so.

In his third day testifying, Packer was asked about Crown’s relationships with junket operators after the company placed full-page advertisements last year attacking media reports saying Crown dealt with junkets linked to organised crime.

Asked if he knew China’s government had started limiting the flow of money offshore in 2013, Packer said he did. Asked if he viewed junket operators at the time as able to help Crown customers move money out of China, he said: “Yes I believe so”.

He said he never turned his mind to the possibility that junket operators were involved in money laundering. He said he had heard “rumours” about junkets being linked to organised crime but did not know if they were true.

In the newspaper advertisements, Crown described the media reports as “a deceitful campaign”, and said its only junket was Hong Kong-listed Suncity Group Holdings Ltd <1383.HK>.

The lawyer questioning Packer, Naomi Sharp, told the inquiry that Crown used at least four junkets at the time including one

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian billionaire James Packer said on Wednesday he “forgot” his casino firm Crown Resorts Ltd

was banned from dealing with associates of Hong Kong’s Stanley Ho when he orchestrated a part-buyout by a firm controlled by Ho’s son.

Packer’s actions as Crown’s largest shareholder are being scrutinised as the New South Wales state government holds an inquiry to decide if the company should be allowed to go ahead with its A$2.2 billion ($1.6 billion) casino tower in Sydney just months before its scheduled opening.

Under questioning, Packer acknowledged the company he founded agreed not to give Hong Kong casino magnate Ho or his associates any beneficial interest in Crown Resorts when it obtained clearance in 2014 to build the 75-floor tower.

However, Packer announced a sale last year of one-fifth of Crown to Melco Resorts & Entertainment Ltd

, a company run by Ho’s son Lawrence. On Wednesday, Packer said he assumed his lawyers would pick up any legal issues.

“I forgot, Mr Bell,” Packer told the lawyer leading the inquiry, Adam Bell. “I thought the legal work that the CPH team … were preparing would cover all eventualities,” he said, referring to his private company Consolidated Press Holdings.

Ho, who died in May aged 98, was banned from any involvement in Australian casinos amid widespread reports alleging links to organised crime, which he denied.

Melco ultimately bought half of the 20% Crown stake Packer had put up for sale – and subsequently sold it – and cancelled plans to buy the other half.

Packer’s evidence also covered a period when 16 staff were jailed in China in 2016 for violating anti-gambling laws, prompting an exit from foreign markets, while Packer himself stepped back from public view for personal reasons.

Testifying via videolink, Packer acknowledged requesting frequent

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian casino billionaire James Packer on Tuesday acknowledged sending threatening emails in 2015 to an unnamed person with whom he was working on taking Crown Resorts Ltd

private while a director at the company he created.

During questioning by a government inquiry, Packer blamed his “medical state” for the threats which he agreed were “shameful” and “disgraceful”. Packer, who confirmed on Tuesday that he has bipolar disorder after revealing previously he had mental health problems, said he should have told shareholders about his personal issues instead of keeping them secret.

“I think my medical state is what it reflected most on,” Packer said of the emails to the person. Packer, who quit the Crown board weeks later without disclosing medical issues, no longer works at the company but retains 37% of Crown, a stake worth A$2.2 billion ($1.57 billion).

One of Australia’s wealthiest people, Packer shuns public attention beyond staged photo opportunities or prepared statements. Packer testified via videolink in a jacket and tie from an undisclosed location, reported by Australian media to be on board a yacht in the South Pacific.

The government inquiry comes as the New South Wales state casino regulator considers whether Crown should be allowed to proceed with plans to run a 75-floor, A$2.2 billion ($1.6 billion) casino tower in Sydney, just months before its scheduled opening.

The risk of the company losing its licence grew last year following media reports, denied by the company, that Crown hired tour operators linked to organised crime to bring wealthy foreign gamblers, largely from China.

Packer denied knowing that Crown staff set up informal offices in residential locations in Guangzhou, China, where advertising gambling is illegal, to avoid detection. In 2016, 16 Crown staff were jailed in China for violating anti-gambling laws. [D-REUTERSNEWS-T004/Ie4b85a305a2b11e79b7692983d739d5a]

“I believe

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission on Wednesday voted to renew the license of the Plainridge Park Casino, the Plainville slots parlor, which five years ago was the first property to open under the state’s expanded gambling law.

The unanimous decision extends Planridge’s license by five years and marks the first time that the commission has had to reauthorize a casino. The two larger casinos in the state, Encore Boston Harbor in Everett and MGM Springfield, opened later.

But Plainridge, which is also home to a harness racing track and a simulcast venue, will be moving forward without a key leader. The casino’s owner, Penn National Gaming, announced on Wednesday that Lance George, who has been general manager of the property since before it opened, is leaving.

George will take over one of Penn’s larger properties, the Argosy Casino Hotel and Spa near Kansas City, Mo. North Grounsell, who is an assistant general manager at one of the company’s Colorado properties, will take the lead role at Plainridge in coming months, pending regulatory approvals.

In a statement, Jay Snowden, chief executive of Penn National Gaming, expressed appreciation for the commission’s decision, which was expected.

“The Commission has set high standards for the integrity of gaming and racing in Massachusetts, and we pledge to continue to uphold these principles over the next five years and beyond,” Snowden said.

Plainridge said it had 413 employees at the end of June, though many were on furlough amid a shutdown brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. More recently, Penn said it had cut ties with some of the workers who remained on furlough after the casino was allowed to reopen at reduced capacity.

The relicensing decision followed a lengthy process including community meetings, a public hearing, and extensive discussion over several commission meetings.

“On behalf of

(Reuters) – U.S. casino operator Caesars Entertainment

agreed on Wednesday to buy British-based gambling group William Hill

for 2.9 billion pounds ($3.7 billion) to expand in the fast-growing U.S. sports-betting market.

Headquartered in London, William Hill was founded in 1934 as a postal and telephone betting service, and already has a U.S. partnership with the owner of Las Vegas’ Caesars Palace.

Following are some details on the latest addition to the Caesars brand:

** William Hill is Caesars’ exclusive sports book provider in the United States and Caesars has a 20% stake in the British company’s U.S. business

** After betting shops became legal in Britain in 1961, William Hill bought many businesses, driving major growth over the next decades, and currently operates 1,414 licensed betting offices in the country

** The UK accounts for roughly 61% of William Hill’s online revenues, while international markets make up 39%. While the COVID-19 pandemic has boosted online gambling, it has hurt the company overall

** William Hill has operated sports books in the United States, online and through retail outlets, since 2012, and is live in 13 U.S. states, with access to a total of 25 through its partnership with Caesars

** William Hill managed to offset regulatory pressure back at home amid a crackdown on gambling addictions, and has partnerships with CBS Sports and ESPN to cash in on the relaxation of U.S. sports betting rules

** William Hill has also been licensed to deliver online betting and gaming in Italy and Spain since 2011 and 2012 respectively, and a deal for Mr Green in 2019 expanded its European footprint

** Under the terms of the venture between Caesars and William Hill, Caesars has the right to terminate the partnership should William Hill be acquired by any parties mentioned in a