Crown goes for leadership change in last bid effort for Melbourne licence

Crown Resorts Limited (ASX:CWN) has announced leadership change, as the company made its last ditch to retain its Melbourne permit.

Crown’s suitability to run its flagship Melbourne casino has been under lens and Victorian Royal Commission has been probing money laundering claims against the casino giant.

As part of the overhaul, Crown Melbourne Chief Executive Officer Xavier Walsh will step down from his leadership role from 20 August 2021. The company, in an exchange filing, said that it would announce the interim successor to Mr Walsh after “consulting the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation”.

However, Mr Walsh will not be exiting the company immediately. “Mr Walsh will remain available to assist the Company until his employment at Crown ends on 9 December 2021,” the filing said.

Separately, the company has also filed a closing submission to the Victorian Royal Commission. The counsel of the company, Michael Borsky, also put up a spirited defence of the casino giant, as it tries to save its Melbourne licence.

The commission is looking into why Crown should be allowed to hold on to its licence despite the allegations of money laundering and repeated breaches of gambling laws.

Lawyers, who have been assisting the probe, have recommended that the company be stripped of its permit due to "serious misconduct" and "insufficient efforts to reform its culture."

However, Mr Borsky, in defence of the company, argued in front of the royal commission that the mistakes weren’t intentional in nature.

The commission is likely to report its findings and any recommendations by 15 October 2021.

Crown Melbourne happens to be Australia's largest casino and accounts for nearly 75% of the company's profits. A favourable ruling, even if it comes with riders, is key for Crown's future and could help it retain or gain state casino licences in Perth and Sydney.

Analysts believe that the company's best bet of retaining its Victoria licence could involve an 18- to 24-month period of supervision – an option put forward by the assisting lawyers.

Despite uncertainty, shares of the company were trading 0.615% higher on ASX – at AU$8.99 each.

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