Crown Resorts is a 33% chance and shrinking of retaining its casino license for flagship casino Crown Melbourne, according to former CEO and Executive Commissioner of Victoria’s state gaming regulator, Peter Cohen.
Cohen was speaking with Inside Asian Gaming in the wake of this week’s final submissions by Adrian Finanzio, General Counsel assisting Victoria’s Royal Commission into Crown Resorts, who recommended a finding of unsuitability for Crown. Cohen said it was looking increasingly unlikely that Crown would emerge without its casino license being either suspended or revoked.
“Based on what we know in the public domain I suspect [the odds are] one third outright cancellation, one third suspension for a period of maybe 6 to 12 months – or indefinite until the regulator is satisfied that the manager has reformed Crown – and one third Crown being allowed to continue with some conditions,” he said.
“And that last option continues to shrink in my mind, because that’s the equivalent of giving Crown a second chance and they’ve already had their second chance after the [NSW] Bergin inquiry, so they are really on their third chance.
“Regulators generally work on the idea of trying to get a person’s attention – you start lower and increase to get their attention. If the Bergin inquiry is their second chance, I think we found out from the Royal Commission that Crown didn’t really get the message.”
In an extensive interview exploring all possible outcomes of the Royal Commission ahead of Crown’s final submissions on 3 August, Cohen also suggested there was no better time than now for Crown Executive Chairman Helen Coonan to step aside given General Counsel’s recommendation that she be found unsuitable to be an associate of Crown.
However, should the company lose its casino license, Cohen said suspension may be a preferable option than revocation.
“The reason I think suspension is [preferable to] cancellation is to do with the ongoing operation of the casino,” he said.
“It will be much easier for a [temporary] manager to operate that casino – which is an island surrounded by Crown assets – if Crown knows it is a chance of getting that license back.”
Cohen explained that it will be the casino regulator itself, the VCGLR, which will be tasked with final say on Crown’s fate, not the Victorian government. When asked about the Royal Commission’s likely findings given the Counsel Assisting’s recommendations of cancellation or suspension of Crown’s license, Cohen said, “It’s very much an exercise in educated guessing but what we do know is that Royal Commissions historically tend to support what counsel assisting tells the commissioner in closing submissions.
“What Adrian Finanzio has done here is given the Commissioner two options. He has said it is open for you to find that Crown is unsuitable to be licensed and also open to find that Crown continues to be unsuitable but with a potential future where a regulator can find them suitable but with some changes necessary.”
00:24 Introduction about Crown
02:27 Peter Cohen explains his roles with the Victorian Casino regulator from 1996 to 2010
03:53 Peter explains what he thinks will happen to Crown now
05:31 It is up to the regulator whether Crown loses its license
08:29 Peter explains the options the regulator has
09:18 The regulator can appoint a manager to run the casino, Crown would not operate it
10:34 Who could be the manager?
13:28 How much State government revenue comes from Crown?
15:30 What’s to stop Crown overcharging a manager for hotels, F&B and other non-gaming?
17:27 Bad Crown 1993-2001, Good Crown 2001-2014, Bad Crown 2014-now
24:18 Did Crown simply ignore the regulator?
26:46 Was the regulator crippled by the Victorian government for Crown’s benefit?
28:40 Can the people of Victoria have confidence in the regulator right now?
32:00 Could Victoria decide to follow what NSW is doing with Crown Sydney?
35:41 How would you rate the probabilities of license cancellation or suspension?
37:33 Why Peter he thinks suspension is better than cancellation
42:11 Is Crown simply an irredeemable organization?
43:35 “If I am a shareholder in Crown, I’m asking why is Helen Coonan still there?”
45:46 If Finkelstein recommended cancelling the license, and you were the regulator, would you cancel the license?
46:48 This matter may end up in the Supreme Court
49:10 I think we have to see Helen Coonan gone before the end of August
50:14 In my view she should go tomorrow, the earlier the better
51:42 Crown could be losing their license in January
53:13 Is this the downfall of the legendary Packer empire?