Crown Resorts prepares top-down reform after difficult year

| By Nosa Omoigui
Crown Resorts has promised major reforms from the top down in response to the Bergin Inquiry launched into the company back in 2019.

The plans were laid out by interim chairman Jane Halton and new Crown CEO Steve McCann during the company’s annual general meeting.

The Bergin Inquiry was launched to ascertain whether Crown was suitable to hold a licence in New South Wales. The results suggested that Crown was currently unsuitable granted a licence. The company were ordered to pay AU$22.5m as part of measures set out by the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority.

Similar reviews were then launched into Crown’s operations in Victoria and Western Australia, with the Victoria report presented to the state government last week.

The Western Australia investigation has been extended until March 2022 following a request from commissioners for more time to carry out their investigations.

Interim chairman Jane Halton said: “There has been significant change at both the Board and senior executive level over the past 12 months, and there is now almost entirely new leadership in place at Crown. This revised structure has seen key compliance functions separated from operations, with greater
transparency and reporting lines to the board and board committees.

“This has resulted in the creation of new senior positions, including a chief compliance & financial crime officer and chief risk officer. In addition, in support of the significant work on cultural reform, we have introduced a new group HR function to drive cultural consistency across the organisation, with the creation of a chief people & culture Officer role.”

Crown has also suggested a cultural reform of the business will be undertaken as part of the company’s Culture Transformation Program.

Crown has used extensive analysis of the company’s current culture to create a “detailed cultural reform roadmap” to guide the business to its desired environment.

Halton added: “At Crown, we have always been about creating exceptional, world-class experiences for our customers. But we acknowledge that to act consistently with our social licence to operate, we need to create exceptional experiences with the utmost respect and care for our customers, for each other and for our broader communities.”

Significant progress has also been made on Crown’s Financial Crime Programme, led by the company’s chief
compliance and financial crime officer Steven Blackburn. The aim was to “reduce the risk of criminal elements”, which has seen Crown stop dealings with all junket operators.

The company has also made upgrades to its responsible gaming policy and are continuing to seek improvements – particularly on aspects of the previous framework which were criticised by the Victorian Royal Commission.

McCann added: “We are substantially upgrading our processes and systems to make it easy for our people to perform at their best, to manage risk appropriately, and to provide transparent and accurate information. We are creating an environment which will help our people to act with integrity and care, and to speak up around any issues that do not align with our values.”

Part of the reform programme, announced during Crown’s annual general meeting, includes changes of senior leadership.

Ziggy Switkowski will join the board of directors as chairman pending regulatory approval. Shareholders were initially set to vote on his appointment at Crown’s AGM, but the approval did not come in time for this.

Nigel Morrison and Bruce Carter have joined the company as non-executive directors, with Anne Ward also being appointed to the board.

Ward’s appointment is contingent on gaining regulatory approval, like Switkowski, so the decision will be put to Crown’s shareholders at the next annual general meeting in 2022. The personnel changes are in addition to the hiring of Steve McCann as Melbourne CEO earlier this year.

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