A special manager appointed to closely monitor Crown Casino’s reform program has warned the change-management process in Crown must be prioritised in order to demonstrate it is serious about being regarded as suitable to hold its license.
The inaugural report from the Office of the Special Manager, an office established as a result of a recommendation from the Finkelstein Royal Commission into Crown Casino, is a part of a process designed to monitor Crown’s implementation of the fixes that the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission requires of Crown to ensure it keeps its casino license.
Three inquiries held over the past two years found Crown unsuitable to hold a license but all three proposed a pathway for rehabilitation. This included the creation of the Office of the Special Manager in order to closely monitor Crown’s compliance with its obligations.
Stephen O’Bryan was appointed to fulfil the role of special manager from 1 January 2022, and it requires O’Bryan and his deputy special managers to be present at meetings of the Crown board and various subcommittees.
It also results in O’Bryan meeting with various regulators and other stakeholders with an interest in Crown.
The report released yesterday reveals that Crown had been issued with 12 directions from the special manager’s office during the first six months of a two-year period of intense monitoring.
Crown wrote to the special manager’s office in relation to two of those directions. The entity has the right to put submissions to the special manager on directions, and in one of those cases, there was an amendment made to a direction.
Directions issued by the special manager included but were not limited to requests for a detailed remediation plan, requests for monthly updates on the progress towards meeting the remediation plan targets, and a direction that asked Crown to provide board and committee agenda papers at the same time as they were sent to the board and committees.
There was also a direction issued that required copies of communications between Crown and various governments and agencies to be provided to the special manager.
The special manager’s report says Crown had been “generally responsive” to information requests from the embedded monitor of the casino operation but there have been circumstances where the scope of the special manager’s access were questioned.
“The [Office of the Special Manager] has actively engaged with Crown to work through any issues, including by arranging to view original documents subject to potential privilege claims and agreeing to redactions of information not required for the Special Manager’s purposes,” the report says.
O’Bryan’s report highlighted a need for Crown to ensure it kept progress towards remediation of its operations on track while also acknowledging the transition the entity is taking from being a publicly listed company to coming under the ownership of private equity play, Blackstone.
“To fully address the findings and recommendations of the Finkelstein Royal Commission and the other inquiries, Crown’s culture and way of working needs to be people-centred, with a focus on staff and customer wellbeing, and with a greater openness to the views and inputs of a range of stakeholders,” the report says.
“As Commissioner Finkelstein highlighted, socially responsible corporate governance requires a commitment to all stakeholders, including ‘local communities and country’.”