As Australian casinos continue to grapple with operational constraints due to the coronavirus pandemic, lawsuits and talks over the acquisition of Crown Resorts remain their course.
Casino operator SkyCity Entertainment Group reported last week that its Skycity Adelaide property would be reopened on a limited basis after restrictions imposed by the South Australian government were lifted.
For now, SkyCity Adelaide is only receiving 100 members of the company’s Premier Rewards at a time. Within the property, physical distancing measures are being maintained. Only a limited number of gaming machines are allowed to operate and a certain number of people per game table.
In the neighboring Victoria state meanwhile Crown Melbourne reported that according to new instructions received from the state government, the property will limit seating capacity to 1,000 customers. Each interior space will have a limit of 150 clients or, what is the same, one person for every 4 square meters.
Crown Melbourne’s board games, unlike the gaming machines that will remain off, will restart operations albeit with improved sanitation measures and under supervision.
As of this wednesday 25 these new rules will come into force, while the company awaits the opening of its Metropol hotel on december 1.
Blackstone Group interested in Crown
On the other hand, it is speculated that the American Blackstone Group could take over the beleaguered the Crown in order to preserve the operator’s gaming license in New South Wales (NSW).
Crown is under investigation by NSW for alleged regulatory failures at its Melbourne and Perth casinos. This resulted in a temporary ban on the games at Crown Sydney scheduled to launch on december 14.
The operator is requesting NSW for a ‘proof of work’ of its Crown Sydney casino activities which would be monitored. However, the company appears to have exhausted its lobbying capacity in the state government, after a series of accusations related to its activities in violation of anti-money laundering regulations.
In the spring, Blackstone acquired a 10% stake in Crown after James Packer, the operator’s largest shareholder, attempted to divest 20% of the company to transfer it to Melco Resorts & Entertainment, its former joint venture partner.
In october, Blackstone applied to the New South Wales gaming regulator for authorization to increase its stake in Crown. But the widely held view is that Crown needs to do a total purge of its entire leadership and management body. Only in this way could NSW approve the games at Crown Sydney.
Reuters on sunday said Blackstone could meet this condition. However, a deal at this point will be very expensive for the controversial Packer. His 36% stake in Crown has been devalued due to the company’s share price plummeting in recent weeks due to massive scandals.
Moody’s downgrades the operator’s rating
As if this weren’t enough for Crown, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the company’s credit rating to Baa3. This is one notch above junk status, as there is “an increasing likelihood of significant negative implications from the growing regulatory investigations Crown faces” at every turn. That is, in New South Wales, in Victoria and at the federal level.
Packer’s shares will be further devalued if at the end of the NSW investigation, scheduled for february, the report concludes that Crown Sydney’s gaming license needs to be fully revoked. At best, hardly any strict limits would be imposed on the property’s gambling operations. So Packer has very little time to decide what to do with his participation.