Crown commits to ‘root and branch’ reform

Crown Resorts has promised “root and branch’ changes to satisfy NSW regulators threatening to deny it a Sydney gaming licence, ahead of the April expiry of the venue’s liquor licence.

Crown chair Helen Coonan has acknowledged a damning inquiry report into the group’s activity that found “serious conduct, culture and compliance issues that clearly do not accord with our values”. 

“While we have already taken a number of important steps to improve our governance, compliance and culture, I recognise from the commissioner’s report we have much more to do,” she said on Thursday.

“We do not underestimate the scale of the problem and appreciate there is a need for ‘root and branch’ change. This change has commenced.”

Two directors aligned to majority shareholder and non-director James Packer have already quit Crown’s board after the inquiry also criticised the billionaire.

NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority chair Philip Crawford says more directors need to go after the report concluded the company was currently unfit to run its $2.5 billion Barangaroo casino.

“Things could get really sticky if we don’t get things sorted out pretty quickly and April is approaching very fast,” Mr Crawford said.

The liquor licence for Crown’s Sydney operation is up for renewal that month.

Asked about the future of CEO Ken Barton and director Andrew Demetriou, Mr Crawford said it was “obvious” from reading the report they also needed to make a swift exit.

“More people have got to go,” he told Sydney radio 2GB.

“The liquor licence expires at the end of April and that’s not a bad horizon for us to put to them and say, ‘You’ve really got to get on with it’. It’s got to be quick.”

The ILGA board will meet on Friday.

Ms Coonan said she’s committed to working with Mr Crawford to reform the company for the sake of the more than 20,000 people who worked at Crown.

Mr Crawford welcomed the departure of directors Guy Jalland and Michael Johnston from the Crown board on Wednesday.

A third director, John Poynton, will stay on but will no longer be a nominee of Mr Packer’s private company Consolidated Press Holdings.

“That’s a really positive start. Just what we’re going to do with Mr Packer and his 36 per cent (shareholding) is something we’ll be discussing,” Mr Crawford said.

The report into Crown by Commissioner Patricia Bergin recommended an overhaul of the company’s board and management if it wanted to open its Sydney casino.

It noted Crown facilitated money laundering and failed to act when made aware of the issue.

Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello was critical of the money laundering issue.

“It’s about organised crime using money laundering essentially to clean their really bad activities,” he told reporters on Thursday.

“Organised crime sells ice to kids in the bush, it’s in the business of selling kids to child pornography, selling women for human trafficking and sex slaves, it’s really nasty stuff.” 

Crown needed reforms in line with the recommendations of the Bergin report in order to meet the licensing conditions of the IGLA, the minister added.

“Then there’s a second tranche of recommendations that require a parliamentary response. That will need to go back to cabinet in due course.”

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