King James Packer will abdicate, and the Crown will survive By Ken Adams, CDC Gaming Reports October 11, 2020 at 5:06 pm Media mogul Kerry Packer, the father of Australian casino king James Packer, was a gambler, and, when he died in late 2005, Australia’s richest man. Packer was famous for his gambling junkets. He was a high roller, a whale, willing to win or lose 30, 40, even 50 million dollars at a time. It is said he once offered to flip a coin – winner take all – for $100 million with a Texan who had bragged that his net worth was $100 million. Packer was a no holds barred, winner-take-all kind of gambler. Kerry liked London, Las Vegas and any other place he could find someone willing to book his bets. Gambling operators loved him when he lost and feared him when he was winning – when he won, it tended to strain the finances of the unlucky casino. Sometimes he took his son, James, with him on these jaunts. The excitement and the attention his father generated must have impressed the young Packer; it has seemingly been one of his life’s goals to be like his father, rich and respected. With one caveat: James Packer didn’t want to risk losing. He wanted to stay on the other side of the table. When Kerry Packer died, his media empire transferred to his then thirty-eight-year-old son. James had been watching the growth of online media and advertising. He felt that newspapers and television networks were going to die out. He sought to unload the elder Packer’s existing business interests and to invest instead in his father’s advocational interest, gambling. With the money from the sale of his father’s media empire, James invested in casinos in Australia, London, Macau and Las Vegas. James Packer In London and Macau, Packer looked to the children of gamblers his father knew; in Macau he formed a partnership with Lawrence Ho, son of the legendary King of Asian Gaming, Stanley Ho. In London, it was the son of equally legendary John “Aspers” Aspinall, John Damian Androcles Aspinall. Both of those companies – Crown Aspinall’s, which operates casinos under the name Aspers, and Melco Crown – have been wildly successful, although Packer is no longer part of Melco, which has since dropped the Crown name. In Las Vegas, however, Packer did not have any of his childhood playmates to rely on, leaving him very much like his father after a bad trip: in essence, a loser. James invested in two resorts in Las Vegas that were then under development; neither was completed, and he is said to have lost over $500 million. In addition, he bought stock in three casino companies and is reported to have lost some $547 million on those investments. For as much as Packer wanted to succeed where his father had been toasted, hosted and welcomed, James has only lost on his visits to the Strip. Australia, on the other hand, has offered him winning opportunities time after time. Crown Resorts has been the jewel in the Packer crown, and its success has left James significantly richer than his father ever was. But it has not all been smooth sailing. In 2016, Chinese authorities arrested 18 Crown employees, 3 of whom were Australian citizens, for gambling crimes; they were promoting gambling to Chinese citizens in China, encouraging them to visit Crown casinos in Australia and Macau. The arrests stopped Crown dead in its tracks. The company, under Packer’s guidance, had been moving to a high-roller, VIP strategy; at one point, Asian gamblers accounted for 30 percent of Crown’s revenue. 2016 was not a good year for Packer personally, either: he began the year riding high and engaged to Mariah Carey and ended it single, resigned from most of his official positions, and in retreat from the public eye. In 2019, The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, and 60 Minutes all published information relating how Crown consorted with Chinese organized crime organizations to launder money. According to the reports, gangs from China sent junkets of high rollers to visit the Packer casinos, bringing with them bundles of cash; they were literally said to carry cases stuffed with dirty money that would then be loaned to gamblers to bet on Crown’s tables. Following these revelations, the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority announced a series of public hearings to determine Crown’s suitability to continue holding a casino license. Crown has built, but not yet opened, a $2.2 billion resort in central Sydney. To open the property, of course, Crown needs a license. Last week, James Packer was called to testify and questioned for three days. Given the times, he was not required to appear in person; he Zoomed in remotely from his yacht floating somewhere in the South Pacific. But even at a distance, the questions made Packer sweat. Before the three days were over, he was forced to admit that he suffers from bipolar disorder, that as a result he requires high doses of powerful medications, that he could not remember lots of things but that he knew the junket organizer might be connected to criminal gangs, that he had not only looked the other way but had pushed the company to keep pursing the junkets, and that it was time to sell down his stock and step away completely from management and control. It must have been difficult for him to admit those things under oath, yacht or no yacht. It is not the way he was raised. His father taught him that a Packer is always right and, when in doubt, always double your bet. But times have changed since his father faced a similar tribunal over his media holdings in the 1990s. Then, his father was able to back the investigators down. James Packer inherited a bundle of money, but he also inherited a reputation. He is part of one of Australia’s most well-known and notorious families: the most prominent member of the third generation of a family of media moguls. He was meant to wear the crown for a while and then pass it on. But it’s now unlikely that James will remain king. The Australian press is suggesting that it might be time to sacrifice the king to save the crown, and that, sadly, is the most probable outcome of these hearings. Australia does not want to deny a license for the Crown resort in Sydney; the investment has been made, the property is built, and the city is eager for it to open. The only solution seems to be abdication. The king, for all intents and purposes, is dead. Long live the Crown.