‘Vastly different’ Crown can keep Sydney casino licence

Luke Costin and Sophia McCaughan |

Crown will keep the licence for its luxury Sydney casino after it was declared a ‘changed business’.
Crown will keep the licence for its luxury Sydney casino after it was declared a ‘changed business’.

Gambling giant Crown has shaken off the shackles after being declared “vastly different” from the troubled operator previously barred from running its waterfront Sydney casino.

The NSW Independent Casino Commission on Tuesday found Australia’s largest gaming group suitable to retain its Sydney licence after nearly three years of intensive remediation.

Commission head Phillip Crawford expressed confidence organised crime groups would not again infiltrate operations at Crown after a litany of misconduct was exposed in a 2021 inquiry.

“In making this decision today, the (commission) is mindful of the dark places this company was in only a few years ago and the striking evidence emerging from the Bergin inquiry,” he said.

“The (commission) is determined that this shall not be allowed to happen again.”

Crown Sydney Casino in Sydney.
Crown no longer needs oversight from financial and risk advisor Kroll. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

Surveillance of the casino’s operations will continue, but Tuesday’s decision ends the need for oversight from financial and risk advisor Kroll.

It also signals the regulator believes Crown can run the casino lawfully.

Amid accusations across town that executives at beleaguered rival The Star had plotted to undermine a commission appointee, Mr Crawford enthusiastically praised the “impressive” turnaround begun at Crown in 2021 by then-chief executive Steve McCann.

Private equity firm Blackstone later took over the $8.9 billion business and installed former Macau and Las Vegas casino executives to further gut and rebuild the gaming empire.

Mr Crawford said a culture-reform expert advising Crown felt she was “walking together” with the company as it built a culture of transparency across its integrated resort in Sydney.

“That’s quite powerful,” he said.

“I think she was very impressed with the way they responded to us as the regulator.”

Star and Crown are among NSW’s largest taxpayers, dumping an estimated $1 billion into state coffers over the four years to mid-2027.

In a thinly veiled swipe at its rival, which is facing a second public inquiry into its suitability for a Sydney casino licence, Crown said its reforms had transformed its casino “into the safest place to gamble in the state”.

“Crown Sydney will continue to work constructively and collaboratively with the (commission) to implement the requirements outlined today as it relates to the casino licence, and ensure ongoing compliance with industry regulations and standards,” it said in a statement.

The Bergin inquiry highlighted major issues at Crown, including the potential laundering of billions of dollars through its casinos.

The troubled gambling outfit was later given approval for its members-only gaming facilities inside the harbourside Barangaroo complex to open on a conditional basis.

Crown was subsequently sold by Australian billionaire James Packer to Blackstone.

The company held onto its lucrative Melbourne casino licence in a decision from the Victorian regulator in March after a royal commission found the company responsible for “illegal, dishonest, unethical and exploitative” conduct.