ILGA chair talks up Crown’s progress in its bid to open Barangaroo casino

By Ethan Anderson Updated
ILGA chair talks up Crown’s progress in its bid to open Barangaroo casino

The much anticipated opening of Crown’s casino in Sydney could be one step closer, with the casino operator agreeing to a host of new measures with the New South Wales gaming regulator.

ABC News reports the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority instigated a year-long inquiry into Crown Resorts, which found the gambling giant unfit to hold a gaming licence for its casino at Barangaroo.

Crown Resorts has made new commitments with the ILGA in a bid to finally open the casino inside its $2.2 billion Barangaroo tower.

The commitments include plans to pay a portion of the costs of Commissioner Patricia Bergin’s inquiry, paying a casino supervision levy, ceasing all international junket partnerships, adopting a cashless gaming model and phasing out indoor smoking.

ILGA chair Philip Crawford said Crown could satisfy the regulator by the end of the year, pending several audits.

“How long these audits will take I don’t know, it could be, probably ambitious to say, the end of June but probably it’ll go just into the third quarter of the year,” he said.

“But if you look back to February, there’s no doubt that Crown working with us has achieved a lot.”

Mr Crawford said current work included a forensic inspection of Crown’s bank accounts.

“I’m not here today totell you that they’re suitable, there is work to be done,” he said.

“There is an audit being done of their bank accounts – one of the primary focuses there is to make sure organised crime has not infiltrated the bank accounts of the Crown group.

“We need to be certain that organised crime hasn’t managed somehow, in whichever state it might be, to infiltrate their other bank accounts.

“Until we get sign-off that those accounts haven’t been infiltrated then that’s a key issue for us about suitability.”

The inquiry found Crown operated two subsidiary bank accounts as part of its VUP gaming operation which were later found to have facilitated money laundering.

The accounts known as Riverbank and Southbank have since been closed.

Chair Helen Coonan has been doing double-duty as interim chief executive since February.

At that time, chief executive Ken Barton resigned as part of a clear out of directors and executives in the wake of the inquiry.

Mr Crawford said an independent monitor was also analysing three aspects of Crown Resorts, including its culture, anti-money laundering structures and corporate governance.

He said the company’s new management team was willing to make the changes to satisfy regulations.

“The old management, I reckon, wanted a fight,” he said.

“I suspect they wanted to take us on with further litigation and I just think it’s a nil sum game for somebody to take on a regulator, that’s just silly.

“It would have had the immediate financial consequence that you could never have guessed when the casino would have opened and you would have never guessed when they would have their licence.

“And I think Helen Coonan realised commercially that they needed to work with us, listen to Bergin and I’m just pretty amazed that she’s achieved what she has in the period of time, it’s only four months, but she wouldn’t have done that without the support of the existing board members.”

The ILGA is also expected to meet within the next fortnight to discuss two rival takeover bids by Star Entertainment and US-based equity firm Blackstone but such moves would need approval by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

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