Crown Resorts’ share price tumbles 

By William Brown Updated
Blackstone’s bid for Crown still has hurdles to face

Embattled casino operator Crown Resorts has seen its share price tumble in recent days amid ongoing controversy that is plaguing the operator.

Top 10 reports that while most casino operators are struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic and significant financial losses associated with it, Crown Resorts is facing those issues and more as it is being investigated for multiple violations of gaming regulations.

Admissions including admitting to money laundering and ties with individuals who had connections to Asian crime syndicates and caused Crown’s share price to drop.

As question marks surround when and if it will be able to maintain its casino licence for its yet-to-be-opened Sydney casino, Crown’s share price has dropped to $9.30 from more than $12 in mid January.

Crown Barangaroo was set to open in June, but the opening was postponed to November.

The gaming regulator has now prevented Crown from opening the casino until its report into the business is complete.

The report is due in February, 2021.

There is a big push for gaming regulators to strop Crown Resorts of its casino licence.

Its former chairman James Packer has faced a lot of criticism as he had personally brought on board junket operators who had ties to organised crime.

Mr Packer is the largest shareholder in Crown Resorts, owning 36 per cent.

Blackstone seeks to up Crown stake 

As the NSW inquiry into Crown Resorts’ suitability to hold a casino licence in the state nears its conclusion, a shareholder has applied to increase its holding.

The Brisbane Times reported in October that Crown’s 10 per cent shareholder, Blackstone, has just applied to the NSW regulator to increase its stake, which it acquired from Lawrence Ho’s Melco in April.

The group appears to be positioning itself to have an option to take a controlling interest in the casino group, the report said.

The possibility of James Packer needing to significantly sell down his 36 per cent stake in Crown could leave the share register of Crown potentially in limbo and unstable.

While Blackstone is recognised as a private equity player, it is also well known for its real estate assets, splitting the property assets of companies, including casinos, and retaining or selling the operating business.

If its application to increase its stake in Crown is part of a larger play, it is plausible it could also pursue fellow casino operator The Star down the track in order to bulk up the real estate trust.

Such an outcome would lead to a massive consolidation of casinos in Australia.

It’s early days yet, but it’s fair to assume that the positioning has begun.

And it’s also worth noting that investing in casinos in Australia is a long game.

It can take years to receive probity approvals but for a party considered an investor rather than an operator the process is generally faster and less arduous.

At this point, a major factor in understanding the value of Crown is what an investor would be buying.

The NSW inquiry is delving into Crown, Packer, its board and management.

Crown Melbourne opens to greater numbers; reintroduces table games

As controversy follows Crown Resorts’ new casino in Sydney, it’s Melbourne venue will reopen to more patrons and reintroduce table games this week.

The Australian Financial Review reports that Crown’s hotel Metropol Melbourne will reopen from December 1 as COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria continue to ease.

The company will also be permitted 1000 patrons inside the casino, having previously only allowed 100 patrons.

Crown will restart its table games from November 25, but will turn off every second gaming machine and restrict each indoor area to the lesser of 150 people or one person per four square metres.

The ASX release detailing the revised trading conditions build on the already announced changes from a fortnight ago, in which Crown announced every patrons would be limited to 90 minutes per day in the casino, with enhanced hygiene protocols and COVID marshals present when it restarted gaming activities on November 12.

These new changes will result in Crown standing up a significant amount of staff, although the exact number remains unclear.

The announcement comes as intense regulatory pressure further dogs the company, a year after media reports alleged it had partnered with junkets linked to organised crime and breached anti-money laundering laws.

Gaming regulators in Victoria, West Australia and NSW are pursuing Crown over the revelations.

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