Crown executives set to appear before Victorian royal commission

By Ethan Anderson Updated
Crown chair outlines flaws in Victorian royal commission findings

The Victorian royal commission into Crown Resorts will feature some of Crown Resorts’ top brass in early July. reports that the royal commission is determining whether the company should keep its gaming licence for Crown Melbourne after last year’s NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority inquiry uncovered damning evidence of money laundering at the venue by Asian ‘junket’ tours with links to organised crime.

It emerged in June that chair Helen Coonan, who emerged from the lengthy NSW probe largely unscathed, first heard about the tax headache in February, but directors only became aware of it on June 7 at a scheduled board meeting.

Ms Coonan is among eight of Crown Resorts’ top brass so far scheduled to testify at the royal commission’s final hearings, along with non-executive director Jane Halton, one of the few board members also left standing after it was gutted in a “renewal” process.

New chief executive and former Lendlease boss Steve McCann is also slated to give evidence.

The inquiry has heard the potential tax underpayment could be up to $272 million.

The focus of the commission’s inquiry in recent days has been frequent suspicious credit card transactions by Chinese patrons in exchange for gambling chips at the Crown Melbourne hotel reception, with fake invoices issued for hotel rooms that did not exist as part of what commissioner Ray Finkelstein lashed as a “fraudulent scam”.

In partly closed hearings, Crown’s senior legal counsel Jan Wiliamson was grilled about the practice.

Commission Finkelstein baulked at the idea Crown could not have been aware it was a target for money laundering and infiltration by criminals, suggesting “they simply didn’t care”.

“In other words, we’re not going to interrupt the flow of revenue…if we break a few laws, bad luck,” he said.

He questioned whether Crown had genuinely turned over a new leaf, saying its recent reform efforts had been in the context of various regulators and three state governments “breathing down” its neck.

“They’re fighting for their lives. What choice do they have?” the former Federal Court judge asked.

A separate royal commission in Western Australia is determining whether Crown is fit to hold a gaming licence for its Perth venue, where there has also been evidence of money laundering.

Casino chiefs meet to chat casino merger

The potential merger between Crown Resorts and Star Entertainment is gaining momentum, with Crown boss Steve McCann and Star chief executive Matt Bekier meeting in June.

It was reported that Mr McCann met with Mr Bekier for a chance to talk through why Star thinks the proposed merger has legs.

Bekier is understood to have dialled into the meeting via Zoom and Crown’s adviser UBS was privy to the conversation, as was one of Star’s advisers, Flagstaff Partners.

Star also has Credit Suisse and King & Wood Mallesons in its corner on the deal.

Mr Bekier’s pitch to Mr McCann is said to have focused on the $150 million to $200 million worth of synergies Star believes the merger could present, as well as the value that could be unlocked from the sale and leaseback of a combined Star/Crown property portfolio.

The Star boss also ran through how the company’s development projects at Queen’s Wharf, Brisbane and the Gold Coast were tracking.

It’s the first company to company engagement since the merger proposal landed on May 10, apart from Crown asking Star for more information about the merger on May 17 “to better understand various preliminary matters”.

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