Crown must 'blow itself up': NSW regulator

·3-min read

Crown Resorts may have to "blow itself up" to save itself after a damning report found it wasn't fit to run a Sydney casino, the head of the NSW gaming regulator has said.

The bloodletting began at the casino empire with two directors resigning on Wednesday. More are expected to fall on their swords in the coming days.

NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority chair Philip Crawford said suggestions Crown may have to blow itself up in order to save itself were "pretty close to the mark".

"They've got a lot of work to do to satisfy us," he told reporters on Wednesday.

The report by independent Commissioner Patricia Bergin, published on Tuesday, found Crown facilitated money laundering and failed to act when it was drawn to their attention.

It also put its staff in China in danger of being detained and dealt with junket operators it had been told were involved in organised crime.

Mr Crawford said money laundering and organised crime were "pretty scary terms" for a regulator, indicating Crown would have to work hard to persuade him they were ready to run a casino in NSW.

The final decision on the licence rests with ILGA, which will hold talks with Crown and company chair Helen Coonan.

The negotiations will take time but ILGA wants to move quickly, Mr Crawford said. The regulator will consider Ms Bergin's report at two upcoming board meetings this month, the first being on Friday.

Crown's first active response to the report came on Wednesday when it announced directors Guy Jalland and Michael Johnston - both longstanding lieutenants of majority shareholder James Packer - had resigned.

A third director, John Poynton, will stay on the board but will no longer formally be a nominee of Mr Packer's company CPH.

Mr Poynton will request the board consider him an independent director after he ends a consultancy with CPH, the company told The Australian.

Mr Johnston was singled out for criticism in the report and Ms Bergin recommended he "conclude his tour of duty as soon as possible".

Two other directors, Andrew Demetriou and chief executive Ken Barton, were also criticised.

While they remain on the board the regulator should have "very serious doubts" Crown was suitable to run a casino at its Barangaroo property near the Sydney CBD, Ms Bergin said.

Crown said it will work with ILGA on the report's findings and recommendations.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she would wait for ILGA's advice before formally responding to the report.

But any casino needed to "stick to the rules" and "be above reproach", she said.

"If parties don't come with the highest compliance, integrity and lawful activity - well then, all bets are off," she told Radio 2GB on Wednesday.

Ms Bergin suggested sweeping cultural change was needed - as well as specific measures like the removal of certain board directors, a thorough audit of Crown accounts for money laundering, and measures to stop the sharing of confidential information with non-director Mr Packer.

The company also runs casinos in Melbourne and Perth, with calls for those jurisdictions to consider the NSW findings.

Independent federal MP Andrew Wilkie, a long-time Crown critic, said he had been revealing evidence of serious misconduct at the casino giant since 2017.

"It's self-evident that Commissioner Bergin's findings mean the company is unfit to continue to operate any casino in Australia," he said.

He called upon the Victorian and WA premiers to suspend Crown's casino licence and establish their own commissions of inquiry.

Moody's said the inquiry's findings were among the more onerous outcomes the ratings agency had been considering, but the report did not mean the casino would never open.

"Moody's ... expects that some of the changes required to maintain Crown's Sydney licence will directly affect the conditions to retain its Melbourne and Perth gaming licences," analyst Maadhavi Barber said.

Crown shares were down 3.3 per cent to $9.80 at 1506 AEDT on Wednesday.