Crown Resorts faces WA gaming licence crisis

The resignation of its CEO, two senior executives and a board member hasn’t alleviated the crisis facing Crown Resorts following the release of a NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority report that said it was not suitable to hold a gaming licence in NSW.

The company now faces a fresh inquiry, with the West Australian government announcing it will investigate whether Crown is fit to hold its licence to run the Burswood casino in Perth.

The NSW report revealed years of money laundering through Crown Perth and led to the state’s chief casino officer being stood aside over social relationships with staff from Crown Perth’s legal and compliance team.

Gaming and Wagering Commission hopes the inquiry will determine:

  • The suitability of Crown Perth to hold WA’s only casino gaming licence
  • The suitability of “close associates”
  • How appropriately Crown Perth responded to the GWC before and during the Bergin inquiry
  • How effective the GWC, and the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries was in discharging its duties, and
  • Any legislative amendments or regulatory controls that would address issues raised by the NSW Inquiry

CEO Ken Barton and Crown directors Andrew Demetriou, Guy Jalland and Michael Johnston have all departed Crown Resorts in the past week, with the company announcing on Monday that Helen Coonan would assume the role of Executive Chairman on an interim basis.

Coonan said “Assuming the role of Executive Chairman is a decision I have not taken lightly but the Board feels it provides leadership stability and certainty at this important time for the business. The Board is determined to maintain the momentum as Crown takes significant steps to improve our governance, compliance and culture. Working closely with the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority and regulators in Victoria and Western Australia, I will continue to lead on implementation of Crown’s ambitious reform program.”

However, there’s also increasing pressure on two additional Crown directors to resign. Philip Crawford, chair of the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority, told ABC radio yesterday that Crown director Harold Mitchell needed to resign, while John Poynton should “possibly” also resign.

As Drinks Digest reported last week, James Packer’s private company, Consolidated Press Holdings (CPH) cut all ties with the Crown board as the gaming giant fights to obtain a casino licence for its $2.2billion Sydney Barangaroo complex.

Crown made the shock announcement last Wednesday afternoon, confirming non-executive board member John Poynton’s consultancy arrangement with CPH had been terminated.

While Poynton will remain on the board and CPH still holds 36% of Crown’s shares, Packer will no longer have representation inside the casino operator’s boardroom.

Poynton was the last remaining CPH appointee sitting on Crown’s board, following the resignation of Jalland and Michael Johnston.

The ILGA report, which was tabled in state parliament last Tuesday, said corporate “arrogance” was a driving factor in the company turning a blind eye to illegal money laundering within its Melbourne and Perth venues.

Crawford said the casino operator would need to “blow itself up” in order to meet the NSW licensing requirements.

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Categories: Business