Crown reforms to take years to fix, Perth commission heard

By William Brown Updated
Crown reforms to take years to fix, Perth commission heard

The Perth Casino royal commission has heard that it could take Crown Resorts many years to fix “significant cultural weaknesses” at the organisation. reports that despite Crown being put on a two year probation in Victoria, the Perth commission has suggested that it may take much longer than that before the beleaguered casino operator shows real signs of improvement.

The Victorian royal commission stopped short of stripping Crown Melbourne of its gaming licence, even though it was found not suitable to continue to hold one, instead imposing a two-year deadline to prove to a new “special manager” that it has returned to suitability.

The Victorian government, however, will automatically assume at the end of those two years that Crown Melbourne’s licence has been cancelled unless the company convincingly demonstrates otherwise, with Premier Daniel Andrews saying it was a “powerful shift” in onus.

At a recent sitting of the Perth hearing, Deloitte partner in risk advisory Victoria Whitaker was asked about a staff survey that had concerning results, saying it usually took about three years to see material, sustained cultural change in an organisation of Crown’s size.

The findings of the survey have previously been aired at the probe, with more than one-third of security staff agreeing that their colleagues bent the rules when it suited them, rising to more than 40 per cent of surveillance employees.

Staff survey results concern Crown’s security head

Crown Perth’s head of security and investigation Derek Burling was asked about that finding when he testified in September, saying it “absolutely” concerned him.

Ms Whitaker was also quizzed about a survey question asking staff whether they perceived the board and senior management were acting in accordance with Crown’s values.

“They don’t generally agree or strongly agree that they are behaving in effect with the purpose and values.

“There was a very, very high neutral response in particular so that always leads us to ask why,” she said.

“We don’t know and if I were to hazard a guess in my professional judgment, there was very little visibility, for example, of the board.

“There was almost no communication from the board until Helen Coonan became the executive chair.

“I think there’s definitely work to be done by Crown’s leadership and board to set the tone from the top.”

Asked if those neutral responses represented a significant cultural weakness, Ms Whitaker said: “Yes absolutely.”

The survey also uncovered among staff a perception that Crown prioritised customers and profit above compliance with its regulatory requirements.

The West Australian and Victorian probes were instigated after the NSW gaming regulator found the Perth and Melbourne venues had been infiltrated by underworld figures through Chinese high-roller “junket” tours, with vast sums of ill-gotten cash washing through its bank accounts.

Loan sharking at Crown Perth under the microscope

Loan sharking is rife at Crown’s Perth casino, a support service has said.

The Financial Counselling Australia (CFA) has detailed several cases of loan sharking at or near the casino, suggesting they operate with “relative impunity”.

A financial councillor told the inquiry in their submissions Crown was turning a blind eye to the predatory practice.

“They would see someone approaching people. There are cameras everywhere. The casino should be a safe place for people to gamble,” they said.

FCA director of policy and campaigns Lauren Levin said loan sharking was one of their key concerns.

“Casinos are not allowed to provide credit. That’s been banned for a long time,” she said.

“Turning a blind eye to those who are providing credit to customers…is a form of willful blindness.”

Crown Perth general manager of security and surveillance Brian Lee was asked about loan sharking when he appeared before the Royal Commission last week.

He told the inquiry the casino had taken steps to ban suspected loan sharks from the facility.

“Most of the time, the ban is a minimum of two years…before they can write to me to ask for revocation,” he said.

“In most instances, the vast majority, if not all, that’s extended past the two-year period.”

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