NSW Regulator: Crown Likely to Regain Sydney Licence This Year

Reading Time: < 1 minute


New South Wales chief gaming regulator Philip Crawford has said that the reinstatement of Crown Resorts’ license in New South Wales is a “realistic prospect.”

Since the ILGA officially declared Crown Resorts unsuitable to hold a state licence for its Crown Sydney casino, the casino operator has begun an attempt to put its ship in order to gain approval for the opening of the new casino.

Several board members have resigned, and Helen Coonan has stepped in as executive chairman on an interim basis replacing former CEO Ken Barton. It is now working to provide the ILGA with a written action plan.

The head of the New South Wales regulator, Philip Crawford, has said that Crown has made progress but needs to demonstrate complete rehabilitation to be found suitable to hold its licence.

Crawford stated: “Let’s be under no illusion, if I’m not satisfied, if the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority’s not satisfied that they have rehabilitated themselves, they won’t be found suitable.”

However, he also noted that the reinstatement of the licence in the second half of this year is a “realistic prospect.”

Blackstone Group has made an unsolicited non-binding offer to acquire all remaining shares in Crown Resorts for AU$11.85 cash per share.

However, Blackstone Group’s proposal is subject to several conditions, including arranging debt finance.


Victorian Govt Funds Six Research Projects Studying Gambling Behaviours During COVID-19

Reading Time: < 1 minute


Australia’s Victorian state government will provide AU$600,000 in grants via the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation to support research into how the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns impacted the gambling behaviours of residents.

With a theme of “Gambling in Victoria in 2020 – COVID-19 and beyond,” the funding round provides grants to six research projects covering topics such as “Economic insecurity and gambling behaviors in Victoria in the COVID-19 society” and “How Victorian venue gamblers kept busy during COVID-19 venue closures: can substituted leisure activities reduce gambling urges and the risk of gambling harm?”

The six projects will each receive between AU$50,000 and AU$150,000 over the next three years with the findings slated to help the Foundation shape future initiatives and activities to prevent and reduce gambling harm in the Victorian community.

“The most recent publicly available data shows online race and sports betting increased by 30% compared to the same period the year before. It’s critical we understand and learn from these changes in gambling behaviour,” Shane Lucas, CEO of Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, said.

“We know that throughout the pandemic and the associated lockdown, some Victorians benefitted from an enforced break from in-venue gambling, while others found it incredibly challenging. To be able to plan and respond to gambling harm effectively, we need to know how COVID-19 affected gambling behaviors. This funding will be incredibly beneficial in understanding how those vulnerable to gambling were impacted by the pandemic,” Melissa Horne, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation, said.


Australia’s Crown Resorts Receives $6.2B Proposal from Blackstone

Reading Time: < 1 minute


Australia’s Crown Resorts has revealed that it has received a $6.2 billion takeover offer from American multinational private equity and hedge fund giant The Blackstone Group.

Crown shares leapt more than 20% after it disclosed the informal offer on Monday.

“It’s nice to get a bid, and now it’s about price discovery,” said John Ayoub, a portfolio manager at Wilson Asset Management, which has Crown shares.

“These stocks are trading at trough earnings and I wouldn’t be surprised to see further activity in the sector.”

If Blackstone’s takeover were to succeed, it would round out a portfolio of gambling-related assets from Las Vegas to Spain with resorts in three Australian cities.

But it would get a company in crisis after Crown lost its licence to operate a flagship new casino on Sydney’s waterfront last month amid allegations of money laundering and links to organised crime.

It also faces inquiries in the other two Australian states where Crown is licensed to operate.

Australia’s financial crimes agency meanwhile is investigating Crown over money-laundering allegations, and the company faces two civil lawsuits accusing it of failing to disclose risks which led to share price declines.

Blackstone’s indicative offer was short of the stock’s trading levels before concerns about the coronavirus caused market gyrations in early 2020.

Crown said its board had not yet formed a view on the proposal but would talk to “relevant stakeholders including regulatory authorities.”


Entain Plc Makes AU$3B Cash Offer for Tabcorp’s Wagering Division

Reading Time: < 1 minute


Entain Plc has offered AU$3 billion cash for Australia-based Tabcorp Holdings’ TAB racing and sports betting unit.

Entain is known to have been in talks with Tabcorp for the past few weeks. However, despite Entain saying its offer represents the “market valuation” of the assets, the Australian Financial Review has reported it will most likely be rejected, and that Tabcorp is looking for a minimum of $3.5B.

Entain has also stated that, if it does acquire the TAB units, it intends to merge them with its existing Australian online portfolio, which currently consists of Neds, Ladbrokes, and Bookmaker AUS. Given the fact that TAB currently has a number of exclusive wagering rights across Australia, it could instantly make Entain the Australian online betting market leader, knocking Flutter’s Sportsbet brand off the top spot.


Ken Barton Steps Down as Crown Resorts CEO

Reading Time: < 1 minute


Crown Resorts CEO Ken Barton has stepped down from his role with immediate effect following last week’s scathing Bergin report.

Barton’s resignation is the latest in a string of director departures, following the resignations of former AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou as director and two Packer-linked executives, Michael Johnston and Guy Jalland.

It comes in the wake of last week’s handing down of the Bergin report that found Crown was “quite unsuitable” to hold a casino licence in NSW.

In addition to his resignation, CWN has announced Helen Coonan will assume the role of executive chairman on an interim basis while the board oversees a search for a new CEO.

“I would like to thank Ken for his dedication and commitment to Crown,” – Coonan said.

“Ken joined Crown more than a decade ago and has played an invaluable role with the business, initially as CFO and in the past year as CEO. Ken has always put the interests of Crown first,” Coonan added.

Barton will continue to assist Coonan in the coming weeks to ensure a smooth handover.

“I would like to thank the Crown Directors for the opportunity to work with them on implementing Crown’s strategy,” Barton said.

“Over the past 10 years, Crown has established itself as a great Australian company with world-class assets and I am absolutely certain the business is now on the right path as it works to restore confidence in its operations.

“I am committed to assisting with the transition to new leadership.”

Coonan said the board has agreed her interim appointment to the role of executive chairman will give the company some stability as it grapples with the fallout from the Bergin report.


Bergin Report Finds Crown Unsuitable to Hold Casino License in NSW

Reading Time: 2 minutes


Crown Resorts’ new $2.2 billion gambling mecca at Barangaroo may never open its doors after an independent inquiry found that the James Packer-backed group is unfit to hold a casino licence in NSW.

Former Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin said in her 750-page final report released on Tuesday afternoon following an 18-month probe into the company that Crown needed a management overhaul if it ever wanted to hold a casino licence, and that the state’s gambling regulator should reconsider Mr Packer’s involvement.

Commissioner Bergin said an examination of a 2019 investigation by The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and 60 Minutes into Crown that sparked the inquiry confirmed Crown had “facilitated money laundering” through its bank accounts; “disregarded the welfare” of its staff in China before 19 were arrested there in 2016, and went into business with high-roller junket tour groups linked to Triad and other organised crime groups.

This made Crown unsuitable to hold a casino licence with its core problem being “poor corporate governance, deficient risk management structures and processes and a poor corporate culture.”

“One of the difficulties for Crown was its unjustified belief in itself and its unwillingness to entertain the prospect that there was any force in any of the [allegations raised in the media],” Commissioner Bergin wrote.

The findings will add pressure on governments in Victoria and WA to act on Crown’s casinos in Melbourne and Perth, where the behaviour that rendered it unsuitable occurred. The recommendations are not binding, and the NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority will meet later this month to consider which, if any, it should implement.

Commissioner Bergin said it was obvious that Crown’s 36% shareholder James Packer exercised the “real power” at the company which had “disastrous consequences for the company.”

She said ILGA should consider his approval as a “close associate” of Crown in light of the explosive revelation that he sent a threatening email to a Melbourne businessman in 2015. Mr Packer said his behaviour was a result of his bipolar disorder.

Commissioner Bergin recommended NSW put an ownership cap in place so any investor will need the NSW regulator’s approval to buy or own more than 10% of a casino operator, opening up the possibility of it ordering Mr Packer to sell down his stake in the company.

Commissioner Bergin said Crown’s reformation to become suitable would also require a “full and wide-ranging forensic audit of all of their accounts to ensure that the criminal elements that infiltrated [two bank accounts linked to Crown] have not infiltrated any other accounts.”

The report calls on NSW to establish the Independent Casino Commission, a “dedicated, stand-alone, specialist casino regulator with the necessary framework to meet the extant and emerging risks for gaming and casinos.”


Tabcorp Confirms Break-up Offers from Multiple Parties

Reading Time: 2 minutes


Tabcorp has confirmed it has been approached about potential deals that would split its underperforming wagering business from the lottery business but cautioned the interest from multiple parties might not lead to a deal.

In response to media reports, the gambling giant confirmed in an ASX statement that it had received “a number of unsolicited approaches and proposals” regarding its wagering and media business. Tabcorp cautioned that the interest from multiple parties might not lead to a transaction.

“The proposals were expressed to be confidential, indicative, non-binding and subject to numerous conditions including due diligence, financing and various regulatory approvals,” Tabcorp said.

There is no certainty that any transaction will occur. The Tabcorp board is assessing the proposals and Tabcorp will update the market in due course,” it said.

Tabcorp investor Sandon Capital has gone further by advocating for a split of the business to deliver value to investors. “It validates our view that there is interest in the business and that market prices previously have not reflected anywhere near its true value,” Sandon Capital managing director Gabriel Radzyminski said.

“When we wrote to the company in November, we believed it was now the time to rethink the whole strategy, plus there was the change of chair,” he said.

“That effectively means it’s a new board because the dynamics change. It was an opportunity for a new board to start with a blank sheet of paper and say, right, here’s what we’ve got. But what should we be?”

Tabcorp’s traditional wagering business, which was already struggling against online competition, had a tough year in 2020 with COVID.

Tabcorp was forced to raise $600 million last August to weather the pandemic storm and slash the value of its wagering business by $1 billion in its full-year accounts after it was hammered by the forced closure of pubs, clubs and betting shops, and the suspension of sporting leagues.

It pushed the group to an $870 million annual loss for the 2020 financial year, compared with a $361 million profit in 2019.


NSW: Kids Start Gambling as Young as 11

Reading Time: < 1 minute


Children as young as 11 are gambling for money and playing video games and apps that simulate betting – and parents are most often funding and enabling them.

About 40% of NSW children aged 12 to 17 are playing video games and apps with features that look and feel like gambling, according to major research commissioned by the NSW Office of Responsible Gambling. It surveyed 551 young people and held a range of focus groups.

Although underage gambling is illegal, about 30% of these young people had bet for money in the past year. The most popular gambling activity was informal betting such as poker, often played at school or TAFE. The balance was commercial gambling such as sports betting, scratchies and lottery tickets.

The director of NSW’s Office of Responsible Gambling Natalie Wright said the results showed that gambling among young people was more prevalent than ever.

The increasing convergence of gaming and gambling was increasing the potential for gambling harm. Many video games and apps encourage children to spend real or virtual money to open loot boxes, digital grab bags that may include skins and weapons.

“Games are exposing young children to gambling at a much earlier age. And parents are the biggest enablers. These games which mimic real gambling are potentially gateways to traditional gambling for young people,” Ms Wright said.


Jumbo: Lotterywest white-label website operational

Reading Time: < 1 minute


Jumbo Interactive Limited (Jumbo) is pleased to announce that the Lotterywest white-label website www.oz.lotterywest.com is now live and fully operational, within the timeframe anticipated when Jumbo announced the Lotterywest Agreement to the ASX on 13 November 2020.

Under this Agreement, Jumbo will provide its online software platform and services to Lotterywest for up to the next 10 years, and has agreed to transition its WA customers to Lotterywest. Jumbo has also ceased sales of Tabcorp products to its WA customers from 21 December 2020, consistent with the terms of Jumbo’s 10-year agreements with Tabcorp, first announced on 29 June 2020.

“We’re very pleased to have delivered this project within the scheduled timeframe”, said Mr Mike Veverka, CEO of Jumbo.

“The successful completion was the result of the excellent working relationship between the Lotterywest and Jumbo project teams who were both focused on ensuring an uninterrupted firstclass customer experience”, he said.


Star Sydney to Increase Capacity to 10,000

Reading Time: < 1 minute


The Star Entertainment Group is going to recall staff at its casinos in Sydney and Brisbane after the state governments announced easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

The Group is expecting an increase in business from next week. Star Sydney will be able to increase its maximum capacity from just 1800 guests currently to 10,000 from December 7 with the removal of a 300-patron cap per area. The NSW government has also eased a rule restricting hospitality venues to one person per four square meters of floor area, with one person per two square meters permitted from Monday.

In Queensland, where Star operates The Star Gold Coast and Treasury Brisbane, the one person per two square meter rule has also come into play from 1 December 2020, while restrictions on the use of slot machines and gaming tables have been removed.

Every gaming machine can now be utilised and the number of people allowed per gaming table has increased from four to seven. Alcohol can also now be consumed while standing.

“The easing in operating restrictions across all three properties will enable us to welcome back additional employees as well as an increased number of our members and guests to safe and entertaining environments,” Star said.