Worrying signs for Crown Resorts, with royal commission announced into Melbourne casino

Huntley Mitchell

Huntley Mitchell

The Victorian government has announced the establishment of a royal commission into Crown Resorts’ suitability to hold its Melbourne casino licence.

The royal commission comes in the wake of the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority’s (ILGA’s) decision to deem Crown unsuitable to hold a casino licence for its new property in Sydney’s Barangaroo precinct.

The NSW ILGA’s decision was based on damning findings from an inquiry commissioned by the state’s gaming regulator.

Since receiving the report from the NSW ILGA, the Victorian government said it has taken advice about the most appropriate way to proceed investigating Crown Melbourne over its casino licence.

The state government said the royal commission “will ensure the most appropriate access to information regarding Crown Melbourne’s suitability to hold the casino licence, given the commission’s powers to compel witnesses and documentation”.

“This is about making sure that those who hold a casino licence in Victoria uphold the highest standards of probity and integrity – and that they’re accountable for their actions,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said.

Raymond Finkelstein QC will serve as commissioner and chairperson of the royal commission and will hand down his recommendations by 1 August 2021.

Crown’s executive chairman, Helen Coonan – who’s now being paid an additional $1.8 million per annum, bringing her total salary to $2.5 million – said the company welcomes the royal commission brought on by the Victorian government.

“It provides an opportunity to detail the reforms and changes to our business to deliver the highest standards of governance and compliance, and an organisational culture that meets community expectations,” she said.

“Victorians should be assured we recognise the responsibility placed on us by the community, governments and regulators and we will fully cooperate with the royal commission.”

Image source: iStock/Kokkai Ng

The casino operations at Crown Perth are also under threat, with the Gaming and Wagering Commission of Western Australia announcing last week that it will formally recommend that an independent inquiry be established in light of the NSW ILGA’s inquiry report.

Crown said it will fully cooperate with the inquiry and continue to engage with the WA’s Gaming and Wagering Commission on its reform agenda, as well as any further remedial steps identified in response to the NSW ILGA inquiry.

Earlier this week, the company farewelled yet another board director, with Harold Mitchell announcing his immediate resignation.

Furthermore, Mary Manos has stepped down from her role as Crown’s general counsel and company secretary, with chief financial officer Alan McGregor being appointed as the group’s interim secretary.

And, to make matters worse for Crown, the company suffered a $120.9 million loss in the first half of the 2021 financial year.

Featured image source: iStock/robb1037