Crown Resorts Retains Coveted Sydney Casino License After Corp. Transformation

Posted on: April 24, 2024, 01:28h. 

Last updated on: April 24, 2024, 03:07h.

Australian casino giant Crown Resorts has been deemed suitable to continue possessing a gaming license in New South Wales (NSW) after the embattled organization underwent a corporate overhaul in recent years.

Crown Resorts Sydney casino license NSW
Crown Sydney has been found suitable to continue holding a casino license in New South Wales. The regulatory inquiry outcome is a major win for Crown Resorts, which last month received a similar suitability finding in Victoria for Crown Melbourne. (Image: Crown Resorts)

On Tuesday, gaming regulators in NSW said Crown’s governance revamp has brought the organization into regulatory compliance. The finding allows the company to retain its gaming license for Crown Sydney, an AU$2.2 billion (US$1.4 billion) integrated resort that opened in late 2020 in Barangaroo.

The casino portion of the ultra-luxury resort commenced table game operations in August 2022. The casino doesn’t have slots — commonly referred to as pokies in Australia — as rival Star Entertainment maintains a state monopoly on the machines until 2041.

Crown officials explained that the firm invested more than AU$200 million to transform the casino company’s internal controls. Its compliance was brought into question by a state inquiry in NSW in August 2019. The NSW probe ahead of Crown Sydney’s opening prompted state inquiries in Victoria and Western Australia where Crown respectively operates Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth.

The board and key executive positions were almost unilaterally overhauled after state investigators in NSW, Western Australia, and Victoria concluded that Crown did little to protect its casinos from being used by illicit gangs and criminal syndicates to launder money. 

Blackstone to the Rescue

Amid its regulatory probes and grave inquiry findings that additionally involved Crown looking the other way when triads and other unsavory characters patronized its resorts, US-based private equity giant Blackstone saw a buying opportunity. Blackstone, which has been bullish on the global gaming industry since the COVID-19 pandemic and which made a series of purchases on the Las Vegas Strip, took its deep pockets Down Under in 2022 with an AU$8.87 billion takeover of the Aussie casino operator.

Blackstone pledged to improve Crown’s governance and agreed to approximately AU$680 million in federal and state penalties for the company’s money laundering shortcomings. However, Crown has so far managed to keep each of its three casino licenses.

Crown Melbourne was deemed suitable by the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission last month. Crown Sydney gained a similar recognition this week by the NSW Independent Casino Commission (NICC).

The NICC is confident the Crown we deemed suitable today has a strong model to keep operating into the future,” said NICC Chief Commissioner Philip Crawford.

Crawford, however, says the state commission will continue to keep close tabs on Crown Sydney.

Hard work and transformation aside, the NICC has not forgotten the level of misconduct exposed when Crown was found unsuitable. Crown Sydney has ongoing work … and must continue to lift standards and maintain its cultural transformation,” Crawford added.

Crown Sydney CEO Mark McWhinnie, who assumed the role in October 2022, said the casino is now “the safest place to gamble” in NSW. McWhinnie said the property has undergone “432 remediation activities” to strengthen employee and patron safety and increase financial compliance. 

Perth Remains Uncertain

With two of the three state inquiries finding Crown Resorts’ corporate changes adequate to retain the company’s Crown Melbourne and Crown Sydney licenses, only Crown Perth’s fate remains uncertain. The Western Australia casino is continuing with its remediation plan, which is due to the Perth Casino Royal Commission by February 2025.

“I am immensely proud of what our team has accomplished with two of our three properties being found suitable to retain their casino licenses and we continue to focus on our ongoing remediation work in Perth,” said Crown Resorts CEO Ciarán Carruthers. The chief executive was appointed to the position in July 2022.