Posted on: March 31, 2021, 08:02h.
Last updated on: March 31, 2021, 11:46h.
Crown Resorts could get its Sydney license back this year, according to New South Wales’ chief gaming regulator.
Philip Crawford, chairman of the state’s Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA), told The Australian newspaper that reinstatement in the second half of 2021 was a “realistic prospect,” provided the company got its “structures in place.”
Crawford pulled the license in February on the recommendation of a public inquiry led by former NSW Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin.
Bergin concluded that the Crown was guilty of “poor corporate governance,” which led to the facilitation of money laundering and the pursuit of commercial relationships with individuals with links to triads and other organized crime groups.
Crown Resorts Blows Itself Up
The revocation of Crown’s license has caused severe disruption to its $1.7 billion Crown Sydney project, which opened in December as a high-end casino without casino operations.
In February, Crawford said the company would have to “blow itself up to save itself.” But he told The Australian this week that Crown was committed to change and “making progress.”
Let’s be under no illusion, if I’m not satisfied, if the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority’s not satisfied that they have rehabilitated themselves, they won’t be found suitable,” he said.
“It’s not that we can’t move them out. But we have a process,” he added.
Crown CEO Ken Barton and five other directors – including those with the closest ties to the company’s biggest shareholder, James Packer – have quit in the wake of the bombshell Bergin report.
Victoria Inquiry Underway
Meanwhile, a new licensing probe got underway last week in the state of Victoria, examining the company’s suitability to operate its flagship Melbourne property.
The chair of that inquiry, Ray Finkelstein, said Crown pointed to a “substantial reform program” it had undertaken since losing its NSW license. Analysis of the effectiveness of that program and how the company has dealt with problem gambling will form the core of the new inquiry, Finkelstein said.
Relicensing this year would be a bonus for private equity firm Blackstone, which recently launched a $6.2 billion takeover bid for Crown Resorts
Crawford said for the deal to go through, Blackstone would first have to pass an “exhaustive process” of probity and “extensive due diligence” in Victoria, which would take a long time.
“The probity process can be done in tandem with Crown suitability. But I can’t give you a date on that,” he said.
Crown is still assessing Blackstone’s proposal.