Crown boss claims activists are pursuing an ‘Anti-Crown agenda’

by Noah Taylor Last Updated
Shares in Crown Resorts take a tumble

Crown Resorts boss John Alexander, has moved to assure investors that its operation is “seriously” treating allegations of dealings with figures linked to organised crime while also dismissing the reporting on the matter as “sensationalist and unproven”.

According to The Age, in his speech delivered at Thursday’s annual general meeting for the organisation, the Crown executive chairman said the company “does not tolerate any illegal activity by its employees or its patrons”.

The investigation of Crown by gambling regulators and law enforcement bodies follows revelations by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes that the company went into business with figures linked to Asian crime gangs as part of its efforts to lure Chinese clientele to its Melbourne and Perth casinos.

The Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, the federal law enforcement watchdog, will commence public hearings into interactions between Crown personal and the Department of Home Affairs over how visas were issued to the Chinese high-rollers, and other matters that flagged “issues of corruption”.

Crown revealed on Thursday that its turnover from VIP player activity had fallen down 46 per cent in the first three months of the financial year, which may be a reflection of the intense scrutiny held towards this aspect of its operations.

Crown’s relations with VIP ‘junket’ partner Suncity, ceased in August as part of the fall out from the revelations about its high-roller program.

In his speech, Mr Alexander said there were “are a number of interests and activists who continue to pursue an anti-Crown agenda”.

“Crown has no interest in being used by those who seek to do the wrong thing.”

He added that the $8.2 billion group complied with anti-money laundering laws at its casinos in Melbourne and Perth and had a “strong record of cooperation” with law enforcement and regulators.

Mr Alexander did acknowledge the reporting had raised concerns among investors, governments, regulators and patrons and moved to state that he could “personally assure you we are taking these matters seriously.”

He chose not to comment on investigations launched by the Victorian and NSW regulators into the matter “out of respect for those inquiries”.

AGM a significant one in 2019

This year’s annual general meeting is significant due to the reduced influence of billionaire James Packer and the arrival of new investor, Hong Kong casino tycoon Lawrence Ho.

Mr Ho’s Melco Resorts will now have voting rights equal to 9.99% of Crown shares on issues at the meeting following his purchase of a stake in the company from Mr Packer in May. As a result, Mr Packer’s ownership has been reduced to 37%.

Mr Ho had originally agreed to buy a 20% stake in Crown worth $2 billion from Mr Packer, but the second half of that transaction has been put on hold until a NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) inquiry into the sale is completed.

The ILGA inquiry has powers similar to a royal commission. It will be conducted by former Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin, SC who will look at Crown’s suitability to hold a licence for its $2 billion casino being built at Sydney’s Barangaroo precinct.

The investigation will also probe whether a condition of Crown’s licence is to not deal with companies associated with Mr Ho’s father, Stanley Ho, because of his alleged links to organised crime activity, which was breached when Mr Packer agreed to sell his shares to Melco.

The timing of the annual general meeting may coincide with these major events however also presented an opportune time for Mr. Alexander to address them to the group’s investors to instill confidence in the organisation’s operations.

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