Australian gambling regulators have placed casino operator Crown Resorts’ financial strength under the microscope as its license undergoes under a review.
The scrutiny from gambling regulators comes three weeks after the Australian-listed firm began restructuring its business, including an aggressive cost-cutting program following a sharp decline in its VIP gambling business.
The Australian reported that both the Victorian gambling regulator, and its counterpart in New South Wales are now conducting “on-going inquiries” whether the casino operator led by billionaire James Packer is still fit to operate in Melbourne and Sydney.
A spokesman for the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) told the news agency that the license of Crown’s Melbourne casino will be reviewed 14 weeks from now. The state regulator conducts a five-yearly review on Crown’s flagship property to determine not only its financial strength but also suitability to operate.
It, however, declined to comment whether the review will include the issue on the arrest of 14 Crown staff in China on suspicion of “gambling related” offenses last year.
“The VCGLR is monitoring the situation involving Crown staff in China and will not comment further regarding the matter,” the spokeswoman said, according to the news report.
During its 2013 review, the VCGLR gave Crown Resorts good review, stating that the casino operator and its associates are “of good repute having regard to character, honesty and integrity.”
But it noted Melbourne casino’s dependence on high-rollers — an area now under heavy pressure as a result of China’s crackdown on gambling — and recommended Crown step up efforts to stop problem gamblers getting into its VIP area.
Crown Resorts pointed out that they already acted on the VCGLR’s recommendations.
“Crown will continue to work co-operatively and closely with regulatory authorities in all our jurisdictions,” a Crown spokesman said.
Meanwhile, Crown Resorts is likewise in a wait-and-see mode for the approval its license in New South Wales, where Crown is building a casino at Barangaroo. According to a spokesman for the independent Liquor & Gaming Authority (LGA), it was still “conducting ongoing inquiries into this matter.”
“It would be inappropriate to make any comment while the matter remains under consideration,” he said.
Two weeks ago, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian rejected the request of Crown Resorts to put poker machines inside Sydney Barangaroo Crown casino’s VIP rooms.
Berejiklian affirmed the policy of then Premier Mike Baird, who permitted a VIP-only casino in the AUD2 billion (US$ 1.52 billion) Barangaroo apartment, hotel and entertainment complex to operate from November 2019.