It’s been a rough year for Crown Resorts, and the bad news shows no signs of letting up. The multi-billion dollar entertainment group seems to get rocked by negative publicity on a regular basis, despite their best efforts to stem the tide.

It would also seem that this week is no different, as Crown received their latest batch of bad news. This time around, it involves both political donations and former business associates.

Back to the Beginning

As you may remember, the whole mess started back in 2023, when a media expose blew the lid off shady behaviour within the Crown gaming empire. This included criminal allegations ranging from bribery to money laundering.

The timing also couldn’t have been worse, as Crown geared up for the opening of a new property in Sydney. Before long, numerous politicians had jumped on the anti-Crown bandwagon, and investigations were soon underway.

New South Wales hosted the most important hearings, with regulators trying to determine if Crown deserved to hold a gambling license within the state. Following the release of the Bergin Report, the answer came back a resounding “no.”

The new Crown casino was supposed to open in December, but it’s been delayed indefinitely thanks to their license being put in limbo. This resulted in massive internal upheaval, with the CEO, five board members, and company’s secretary and general counsel all resigning. Now, their replacements are working closely with state regulators to address compliance issues.

New Investigations Announced

To compound their headaches, Crown now faces new investigations from regulators in Western Australia and Victoria. In a worst case scenario, Crown could have their license revoked in both states and be virtually driven out of business.

No More Political Donations

Effective immediately, Crown Resorts can no longer make any political contributions. Over the last decade, Crown has consistently been one of the largest donors to Australian political parties and candidates.

On Tuesday morning, Crown confirmed the news by making an announcement through the Australian Securities Exchange. Anti-gambling advocate and independent MP Andrew Wilkie seemed pleased, stating “Frankly, no political party should accept donations from any gambling company, and the pressure is now on the parties to follow Crown’s lead and promise to end their reliance on the industry.”

A Conflict of Interest?

As Victoria’s royal commission prepares to launch their investigation into Crown Resorts, a number of law firms are hoping to help the state for a sizable fee. In one case, however, there might be a conflict of interest.

The firm in question is Corrs Chambers Westgarth, and they hope to supply solicitors to the state during the probe. However, concerns about ethics have been raised recently, as the following came to light:

  • Corrs Chambers Westgarth advised Crown on elements of their bid to build a casino in NSW.
  • The Blackstone Group is a major client of Corrs. They also happen to own 10% of Crown Resorts, making them the company’s second-largest shareholder.

According to Charles Livingstone, a gambling regulation expert, it would be a “terrible look” if the Victorian government decided to retain the services of Corrs. He also mentioned that Blackstone was in the best position to purchase more Crown stock if owner James Packer decides to sell.

Meanwhile, Peter Cohen, a former director of the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, had a different opinion. According to him, it would be almost impossible to hire a law firm with the resources to run a royal commission that didn’t have at least some conflict among their clientele.

Additional Reading

If you’d like to read more about the unfolding misfortunes of Crown Resorts, please see the following: