Crown Resorts was one of the many global casino operators that was interested in entering the newly licensed Japanese casino market. Gaming analysts have stated that the Japanese government will most likely approve two gaming licenses for integrated resorts to be developed in potential locations like Toyko, Yokohama and Osaka.
Competition for these lucrative gaming licenses is fierce as a number of major casino operators such as Wynn Resorts, MGM Resorts, Las Vegas Sands Corp and Melco International expressed interest in bidding for a gaming license and be willing to invest close to $10 billion to develop an integrated resort in Japan. Crown Resorts stated earlier this year that it was dropping all plans of international expansion but would keep its options open in Japan.
Crown Resorts decided to focus on its domestic market in Australia after the company was rocked by the arrests of 18 Crown employees in Mainland China who were alleged to have marketed gambling services on the Mainland where it is forbidden. The arrests caused Crown shares to drop and force the company into revamping its expansion plans.
James Packer Says No To Japan
Earlier this week, Crown Resorts chairman James Packer announced that the company would no longer pursue a casino license in Japan and would continue to focus on its domestic market. The gaming tycoon said that it made more sense for Crown management to concentrate on developing their domestic market instead of focusing on Japan. Packer said that in his mind Japan was no longer an option but pointed out that he was only one of the directors on the Crown board and others might feel different as he is yet to have an official discussion with the rest of the board.
Packer said that he was regularly asked if Crown would pursue a casino license in Japan and his answer to that is NO. He believes that it is not realistic to think that Crown would win a gaming license and as a result, he would not be signing a A$500 million or $A1 billion cheque in the next few weeks to give to Japan as a token deposit. Packer said that Crown had no plans to enter Japan immediately but did not rule out the possibility of developing a casino in Japan in the future.
Crown Not Helped By Recent Allegations
Crown Resorts has also faced allegations of tampering with slot machines or pokie machines as they are commonly referred to in Australia. MP Andrew Wilkie brought those allegations in video before the Parliament last week and claimed that former employees of Crown Melbourne had testified that the management had deliberately tampered with pokie machines to force players to gamble more and limit their options of winning.
The Victoria gaming regulator responded by saying that it would launch an investigation into the matter as it took these allegations very seriously. Crown Resorts denied those allegations and asked Wilkie to provide proof and more information about the video that was played before Parliament.
The arrests of Crown Resort employees in 2016 and the pokie machine tampering allegations in 2017 have tarnished Crown’s reputation and will certainly hurt its chances of obtaining a gaming license in Japan as one of the criteria’s for shortlisting a casino operator will be to look at the company’s reputation in the market and recent history. So on that note, James Packer is definitely correct in stating that it is not realistic to believe that Crown Resorts would be chosen for a gaming license.
Parliament Denies Wilkie From Revealing More Allegations
MP Wilkie told Parliament this week that he had obtained more evidence from a fourth whistleblower regarding Crown Resort’s is alleged misconduct. However the Parliament denied Wilkie permission from using his privileges in Parliament and playing the evidence. Wilkie claimed that he would reveal the identity of the fourth whistleblower who has already received death threats and is living in fear.
The government stopped Wilkie from showcasing the evidence stating that parliamentary privilege should not be used to showcase defamatory and slanderous material. The MP’s request for a federal parliament investigation has also been turned down as Minister Christopher Pyne said that Wilkie already knew that the appropriate agencies to investigation these allegations were the gaming regulators, AUSTRAC and the Victoria police department.