Crown Resorts is on track to launch casino operations at its AU$2.2 billion Crown Sydney development in 2021 with the chairman of the NSW gaming regulator telling Inside Asian Gaming he expects a resolution within “months, not years.”
Detailing the progress of negotiations between the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) and Crown, which was deemed unsuitable to hold a state casino license following the recent Bergin Inquiry, Authority chair Philip Crawford said the Australian casino giant was making solid progress in its efforts to reach suitability.
“We’re talking months, not years,” Crawford told IAG when asked for a realistic timeline around the Crown Sydney casino.
“Some [analysts] were speculating that it might take eight months to two years, but certainly two years is ridiculous. If they can’t get to suitability within 2 years then we’ve got a real problem.
“I would have thought the second half of this year at some stage is a realistic prospect as long as they can get their structures in place.”
A report handed down by inquiry commissioner Patricia Bergin in February not only recommended ILGA find Crown unsuitable to hold a NSW casino license but also outlined a series of criteria that should be met if such a finding was to be reversed. In particular, the report called for several Crown board members and senior executives to step aside and demanded sweeping changes to the company’s anti-money laundering controls following revelations that some Crown bank accounts were likely used to launder criminal funds.
“One of the big requirements was that a lot of people had to go to change the culture of the place, because a lot of it is leadership from the top, and that process has just about been completed,” Crawford said, pointing to the departures of five directors – Guy Jalland, Michael Johnston, Andrew Demetriou, Harold Mitchell and John Poynton – plus CEO Ken Barton and General Counsel Mary Manos since the Bergin Report was made public.
“Now it’s getting better structures in place to cope with the compliance obligations and put up defences against infiltration from organized crime. It’s very important to get those in place.”
Crawford also revealed that Deloitte Australia is currently undertaking a complete audit of Crown’s bank accounts to ensure no more have been infiltrated by organized crime and that there are no irregularities around their handling of money. That process, he said, will likely take around three to four months.
There is expected to be some more immediate good news around licensing, however, with the ILGA likely to extend interim liquor licenses for Crown Sydney’s non-gaming facilities, which opened their doors on 28 December 2020. The liquor licenses are currently set to expire on 30 April.
“We’re looking at that at the moment,” Crawford said. “Hopefully we can announce something very soon. The option we have is to roll that over for two or three months and we will be looking at that this week.”
IAG takes a closer look at Crown’s fight to reach suitability in NSW and how upcoming Royal Commissions in Victoria and Western Australia could play out in the April issue of Inside Asian Gaming, out next week.