Margot Saville has a front-row seat for the current Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority inquiry into the Star casino unrolling in Sydney this week, and one thing is certain: “No one — Vaikunta, Grimshaw, his partner, the NSW Premier and the executives at Star — could come out of this very well.”

The whiff of something dodgy has now permeated the halls of government with yesterday’s implication that the NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell was somehow involved in a bid to “smash Star”.

Enter James Packer. Packer was quoted in The Daily Telegraph and The Australian Financial Review today calling for heads to roll at Echo, Star’s owners, for their “pathetic” corporate governance in leaking information.

Over the weekend Echo outed itself as the source of leaks to The Tele and The Australian newspapers in February and March — revealing they included “company emails and text messages between the NSW Premier’s communications director Peter Grimshaw, and a former human resources manager at The Star”.

Packer is lobbying for board representation at Echo after raising Crown’s stake to 10 per cent as a platform to build a $1 billion casino at Barangaroo.

As Paul Barry writes in The Power Index today:

“Students of NSW history may remember that James fronted the Packer family’s unsuccessful bid for the Sydney casino back in 1994, which ended in far nastier allegations by the Packers about the unsuitability of the winners, led by US casino operator Showboat, to hold the casino licence.

“They may also remember that it was James who kicked off the Sydney bid with a phone call to one of Premier John Fahey’s ministers to say, ‘The old man told me to call … This is the message: if we don’t win the casino, you guys are fucked.'”

As Barry suggests, perhaps the ALP opposition could ask the current premier what discussions he has had with Packer about Star and the Sydney casino licence since late 2010 when, according to Peter Grimshaw, O’Farrell appeared to be contemplating an assault on Star and its owners. They might also ask whether O’Farrell gave Packer any pledge of support.

Even if those texts were a matter of Grimshaw just “big noting” himself to his girlfriend (his words, not ours), the optics of all of this don’t look good for anyone …

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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