The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has concluded an investigation following comments made by the Chairman of Echo Entertainment, Mr John O’Neill, that the Chairman of Crown, Mr James Packer, made a statement which could have been interpreted as an attempt to engage in market sharing in relation to casino operations in New South Wales and Queensland.
The ACCC found that there is insufficient evidence to support a contravention of the cartel provisions of the competition laws.
On 11 July 2013, the Australian Financial Review reported that on 11 March 2013, Mr O’Neill met Mr Packer for lunch on board Mr Packer’s boat in Sydney Harbour. This article quoted Mr O’Neill as stating:
“James Packer categorically said that if we behaved ourselves vis-à-vis Sydney he would stay out of Queensland.”
The ACCC investigated this media report on the basis that, if Mr Packer had in fact made the statement as described above, the statement may raise concerns under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. Specifically, the statement may suggest an invitation was being made to collude in the allocation of geographic markets between the two casino operators.
The ACCC conducted a thorough investigation of the issues and concluded that there is insufficient evidence to suggest that there has been a contravention of the competition laws. On that basis, the ACCC does not intend to take any further action on the matter.
The ACCC does not generally comment on its investigations, but considered it was appropriate in this circumstance due to the public nature of these serious allegations. The ACCC will not comment further on this matter.