Crown Resorts were dealt a significant blow to their business plans after the final report from the New South Wales (NSW) inquiry found the casino operator unsuitable to hold a casino license for its new AU$2.2 billion resort in Barangaroo near Sydney.
Unsuitable for Casino License
The damning verdict of the report submitted Tuesday afternoon to the NSW Parliament by former Supreme Court Judge Patricia Bergin left the fate of the casino at Crown’s new resort on Sydney Harbor hanging by a thread after the company was forced to delay its opening by the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) until the report is submitted.
The year-long inquiry exposed a plethora of shortcomings, among which money laundering and links to organized crime, and Commissioner Bergin explicitly stated in the report that Crown Resorts would need to implement a major cultural overhaul to stand any chance of being considered suitable for a casino license in the future.
Crown responded to the report saying the company would consider the report findings and would work with the regulator and NSW Government with regards to the findings and recommendations.
Bergin identified Crown’s “poor corporate governance” and “deficient risk-management structures” as the core issues which made the operator unsuitable for a casino license, while noting Crown’s corporate arrogance and unjustified self-belief.
While leaving the door open for the regulator to suggest ways in which Crown could keep its license, Bergin suggested certain personal and structural changes, among which Crown CEO Ken Barton and non-executive director Andrew Demetriou, but with regards to James Packer, Bergin stopped short of suggesting a need for him to divest his stake at the company.
Despite considerations related to the issue with Stanley Ho and Packer’s threats to a businessman in 2015, Bergin left to the ILGA to decide whether Packer is an appropriate person to be involved with the casino, yet recommended new controls to prevent him from exercising power over the management of the company.
Bergin suggested Crown should implement a major overhaul of the board, as well as some reforms with regards to anti-money laundering (AML) processes at its casinos.
Patricia Bergin’s report proposed changes to the Casino Control Act to address activities and processes related to money laundering the inquiry hearings uncovered.
A key recommendation suggests the establishment of an independent industry oversight body, Independent Casino Commission (ICC), tasked with regulation for the gaming industry. Having the powers of a standing Royal Commission, the ICC would be in charge of licensing decisions and enforcement actions for licensees.
Among other recommendations put forth by the report was a ban for casino companies to partner with junket operators, which if implemented would deal a further blow to the VIP segment of the casino industry in the state.