(ATF) Australia’s largest gambling company, Crown Resorts, suffered another blow to its reputation on February 16 when Western Australia's watchdog announced an inquiry into its Perth casino.
Crown was already reeling from last week's ruling in New South Wales, the country’s most populous state, that it was unfit to hold a gambling licence for its flagship new Sydney resort.
A report by a retired judge called for sweeping changes to Crown's board and governance and led to the resignation of four directors, including Ken Barton, its chief executive.
The news from Western Australia casts further uncertainty over Crown's future direction and puts the spotlight onto the other Crown casino already operating in Australia - in Melbourne, the country’s second-largest city.
Melbourne has been one of the few bright spots in a rough week for Crown. Its casino there expects to reopen on February 18 - although under restrictions - after a five-day lockdown due to a coronavirus outbreak.
The Gaming and Wagering Commission of Western Australia (GWC) said the independent inquiry would have wide-reaching powers and would look into whether Crown Perth should have a gaming licence.
SUITABILITY IN SPOTLIGHT
“The GWC will now formally recommend that an independent inquiry under the Casino Control Act 1984 be established,” it said in a statement, adding that approval for the inquiry’s terms of reference would be sought from the state solicitor-general’s office.
GWC said it would seek to establish the suitability of Crown Perth as a casino gaming license operator in Western Australia, the suitability of its close associates, the appropriateness of Crown Perth’s responses to the GWC prior to and during the Sydney inquiry.
It would also investigate the effectiveness of the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries and the GWC, and recommendations on potential legislative amendments or regulatory controls that will address strategic risks.
Crown shares fell as much as 1.4% to A$9.62 in trading on February 17, before recovering to A$9.71, 0.5% down, reflecting a broader market dip. Crown, which has lost more than a fifth of its value since this time last year, said it would work with the commission as it looks to regain trust.
"Crown is determined to play a constructive role with all of its regulators as it works to restore public and regulatory confidence in its operations," executive chair Helen Coonan said in a statement.
The GWC said Col Blanch, deputy commissioner of the Western Australia Police Force, attended its most recent meeting to discuss Crown Perth.
With reporting by Reuters