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Crown Resorts disputes amended tax bill

The gaming operator says it does not agree to the amended assessments and may pursue legal proceedings if necessary

Crown Resorts Ltd., the gaming operator in Australia with investments in Asia, says it would object to an amended tax bill and penalties issued by the Australian tax authorities according to two filings with the Australian Securities Exchange issued on Monday. Crown Resorts announced that it has received amended assessments from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) for a total of approximately 250 million Australian dollars (US$179 million) comprising primary tax and interest. In addition, the Office has issued a separate notice of penalties of about 112 million Australian dollars, making a total claim of approximately 362 million Australian dollars. ‘Crown is a significant taxpayer in Australia and disputes the amended assessments,’ the company said in the filings. The Melbourne-based company said the amended assessments are in respect of income tax paid for financial years ending 30 June 2009 to 30 June 2014 (inclusive). The amended assessments relate to the tax treatment of some of the financing for Crown’s investment in Cannery Casino Resorts and other investments in North America. ‘Crown considers that is has paid the correct amount of tax and intends to pursue all available avenues of objection, including, if necessary, court proceedings, to the amended assessments,’ said the company in the filings. Globetrotter Australian billionaire James Packer, who owns 53 per cent of Crown, botched an attempt to capture a slice of the US market nearly a decade ago. In 2007, he acquired Cannery Casino Resorts for US$1.75 billion, a portfolio of four casinos in Nevada and western Pennsylvania, but the global financial crisis hit and crushed US gambling revenues. Crown was subsequently forced into billions of dollars of write-downs. James Packer’s casino empire Crown Resorts has a 34 per cent stake in Asian casino developer and operator Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd., which has been hit by lower earnings from its Macau interests, with the Asian gaming hub recording a revenue slump for the 20th straight month. The market has been keeping a close eye on the company since Mr. Packer announced in December that he was stepping down from the board of Crown Resorts. However, Mr. Packer remains co-chairman of Melco Crown.