The future of Crown Resorts casino in Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney is in serious doubt. The long-running inquiry into Crown’s suitability for a casino licence heard the company is unfit to hold one.

Crown is due to open its $2.2 billion casino in Barangaroo in December. That is in doubt with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian seeking advice about whether to delay the opening.

“I will get advice and make a decision according to what’s in the best interest of our citizens.”

The NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) inquiry ran for 48 days. Key Crown personnel gave evidence during it, including the company’s biggest shareholder, James Packer. Packer has a damaging influence over Crown Resorts, according to Bell.

Adam Bell, SC, is one of the members of the counsel assisting with the inquiry. Evidence presented during the 48-day inquiry shows Crown isn’t suitable to hold a casino licence in the state. He pointed the finger of blame at Packer.

“A common theme” in everything negative surrounding Crown can be attributed to Packer, Bell said.

“The deleterious impact on the governance of Crown Resorts caused by its dominant shareholder, Consolidated Press Holdings, and ultimately Mr Packer.”

Crown’s Casino Licence In Doubt; Problems Started in 2016

Bell pointed out Packer’s influence was there for all to see in 2016. This is when Chinese authorities arrested 19 and jailed 16 of Crown’s employees. Bell stated there is no evidence Crown knew its employees were breaking the law. It did, however, know senior executives and one director knew of the dangers. They shared the information only with a special group loyal to Packer.

“The adverse impact of Consolidated Press Holdings and Mr Packer was ultimately harmful to the public interest, which is a primary objective of the Casino Control Act to protect,” Bell said.

February 1 is the deadline for the ILGA to receive the inquiry’s report. The decision about whether Crown keeps its NSW casino licence is in the ILGA’s hands.

Calls To Suspend Crown’s Licences

Independent federal MP Andrew Wilkie is a staunch anti-gambling campaigner; he positively hates the industry. Wilkie called for Victoria and Western Australia to immediately suspend Crown’s other licences.

“If Crown is not fit and proper to hold a casino licence in NSW, how can Crown be trusted to run a casino anywhere in Australia? The evidence used to recommend against the NSW casino licence was based on how Crown currently runs Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth.”

It was a similar story from Tim Read the spokesperson for the Victorian Green Integrity team. The probe into Crown’s NSW activity put the Victoria gambling regulator to shame, according to Read. Read called for the suspension of Crown’s Melbourne casino licence.

Shares in Crown fell from $8.56 to $8.40 after this news broke on November 4. They climbed back to $8.58 at the close of business on November 5. Crown shares were worth $12.02 on January, meaning shareholders have had a rough time.

Matters will get much worse if ILGA suspends even a single Crown casino licence. Shares could go into freefall as Crown would be unable to operate any of its casinos. Delaying the Barangaroo project is also potentially damaging. It needs to be open to help Crown recoup some of the $2.2 billion spent. Turbulent times are ahead.

What Next For Crown?

Nobody knows what lies ahead for Crown although one thing keeps rearing its head. It is evident Packer cannot remain part of the company. Packer stepped away from the day-to-day running of Crown a while back but is still a major shareholder. His colossal holding in Crown means Packer is hugely influential. He has the power to influence any voting required.

Packer has tried offloading his shares, something that caused this inquiry in the first place. He’ll not find a buyer if the company loses even one of its licences.