/ 10 February 2021

Bets off for Crown casino opening

THE SQUIZ
Crown Resorts is “not suitable” to hold the licence to operate its just-built Barangaroo casino. That’s the conclusion of an inquiry conducted by former Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin for the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) after serious claims of money laundering and links to criminal syndicates took off in 2019. The scathing report is a massive blow to the company that has spent $2.2 billion building the casino/hotel/dining skyscraper on Sydney Harbour and its 36.7% shareholder James Packer.

WHAT DID THE REPORT SAY?
The 12-month inquiry has resulted in an 800-page report that details the Commissioner’s issues. The “core problems” were Crown’s “poor corporate governance” and “deficient risk-management structures”. Bergin made recommendations on those and said CEO Ken Barton “demonstrated that he is no match for what is needed” to lead a casino operator. But the biggest issue is what Bergin said was Crown’s culture of “corporate arrogance”. “One of the difficulties for Crown was its unjustified belief in itself and its unwillingness to entertain the prospect that there was any force in any of the media allegations,” the report says.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Well, first things first – this report is Commissioner Bergin’s recommendations to the NSW Government. It’s not the final word because governments do what they want… But if it sticks to what the report recommends, Crown will have an opportunity to open the casino – but only if it ‘converts to suitability’… That would require a makeover of its board and allow audits of its anti-money laundering systems, amongst other things. There’s also speculation about what it means for Packer’s stake in the company. The report recommends he sell off a big chunk. It’s a personal blow for the billionaire who championed the casino’s establishment in Sydney, just like his father Kerry wanted. NSW Minister for Gaming Victor Dominello said the government will “consider its recommendations very carefully before providing a formal response in due course.”

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