Crown Resorts’ Indigenous employment program under fire

by William Brown Last Updated
Crown Resorts? Indigenous employment program under fire

Crown Resorts is one of a number of big Australian companies who have been given funds by the federal government to employ people of Aboriginal descent.

The Guardian reports that Crown Resorts was awarded a $3.6 million grant from the Indigenous advancement strategy, a $4.9 billion fund set up in 2014 to alleviate Indigenous disadvantage.

The National Indigenous Australians Agency confirmed it had paid Crown $2.29 million for placing 230 Indigenous employees “and retaining them in jobs for at least 26 weeks.”

NIAA said the agreement with Crown, which began in August 2015 and expires in June 2021, is for up to $3.622 million for an additional “400 Indigenous Australians into a range of jobs within hospitality, management, security, housekeeping.”

The scheme’s big corporate partners receive a payment when an Indigenous employee achieves a minimum term of employment of at last six months.

Crown is facing royal commissions in Western Australia and Victoria after an inquiry in New South Wales found it facilitated money laundering and that junket operators who brought high-rollers to its casinos in Perth and Melbourne were linked to organised crime.

The NSW inquiry, run by former judge Patricia Bergin, found Crown was unfit to hold the licence for its new $2.2 billion casino in Barangaroo at Sydney Harbour.

Bergin’s report, tabled in NSW parliament in February, led to an exodus of management and board members at Crown and has put major shareholder James Packer, who resigned from the board in 2018, under pressure to sell his stake in the company.

The private equity group Blackstone has offered to buy the group.

In a brief statement in response to detailed questions, a Crown spokesperson said: “Crown has provided employment for over 1,000 Indigenous Australians since 2009, and are committed to continuing the efforts to train and employ more Indigenous Australians over the long term.

“Crown has received major industry, state and federal government awards for its Indigenous Employment Program.”

Crown Resorts’ failure to open could spell trouble for NSW government accounts

The repercussions of Crown Resorts being unable to open its casino in Barangaroo is set to have big repercussions on the New South Wales government’s coffers.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported in February that NSW is already preparing to take a $190 million hit in casino tax revenue as a result of the coronavirus border closures, with budget forecasts showing it would take several years to recover that revenue.

If the James Packer-backed group is denied a licence or another company doesn’t take over the under fire casino, the government faces as much as $400 million in lost tax revenue.

This comes as a number of high-profile directors have left their Crown posts, including Andrew Demetriou, who resigned after gambling regulators in Victoria and NSW pushed him and Crown boss Ken Barton to leave after being heavily criticised in an inquiry that found the company unfit to run a casino.

The independent Bergin inquiry found that Crown Resorts is unfit to hold a casino licence in NSW, with a scathing report released this week confirming Crown had “facilitated money laundering”.

Gambling regulators in NSW and Victoria earlier took aim at Mr Barton and Mr Demetriou for their refusal to resign after being heavily criticised in the report.

Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation chief Catherine Myers said on Thursday she would demand the pair explain why they should be allowed to be involved with the group’s flagship Melbourne casino.

That came hours after her NSW counterpart, Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority chair Philip Crawford, said that Crown needed to part ways with Mr Barton and the former AFL boss Mr Demetriou if it ever wanted to open its new casino at Barangaroo.

Former Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin found that Mr Barton was “no match for what is needed at the helm of a casino” and called Mr Demetriou’s appearance at her public inquiry “unedifying”.

Mr Crawford said there was no guarantee Crown would be able to make itself suitable to open the new casino in NSW.

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