Crown Set to Start Gambling at Sydney Casino Within Months

Crown Resorts Ltd. is on course to start gaming operations at its $1.7 billion Sydney resort within months after the company’s current overhaul won support from the regulator.

Philip Crawford, head of the casino watchdog in New South Wales state, said Thursday he was confident gambling could get underway well before the end of October. Crown was found unfit in February to operate the casino after a scathing regulatory report revealed the company facilitated money laundering at its other resorts for years.

Crown was making “significant progress” in addressing the concerns laid out in the report, Crawford, who is chairman of the New South Wales Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority, said Thursday. “It’s coming together and it’s probably a bit sooner than I thought.”

Crawford’s assessment is a vote of confidence in Crown Chairman Helen Coonan’s plan to renew the casino operator’s board, improve governance and tighten anti-criminal controls. His suggested time frame also reduces the risk for a range of bidders including Blackstone Group Inc. that are currently circling Crown.

Crown shares fell 0.4% to A$12.75 at the close in Sydney. Blackstone has bid A$12.35 a share in cash for the firm, while rival Australian casino operator this week proposed an all-stock merger that it said ultimately values Crown at A$14 a share.

An independent monitor will report to the regulator on Crown’s structural changes, focusing on corporate governance, anti-money laundering measures and culture, the said Thursday. The regulator will decide on Crown’s suitability to operate the casino after the report, it said.

In a statement late Thursday, Crown said it has closed its overseas offices and plans to run its international VIP-gaming operations from Australia.

A report on Crown for the regulator in February by former Judge Patricia Bergin was among the most damning assessments of any Australian corporation. She recommended a comprehensive overhaul of the company, including removing certain managers and directors, before gambling operations could get start in Sydney.

Crown has agreed to make all gaming in its casinos cashless, using card technology linked to both identity and a recognized financial institution, the regulator said.

Other changes agreed to by Crown:

  • Pay A$12.5 million ($9.7 million) toward the costs of the Bergin Inquiry
  • Commence payment of the Casino Supervisory Levy
  • Not operate international junket operations
  • Phase out indoor smoking at its Australian resorts by December 2022

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