Blackstone gets green light for A$8.90b Crown Resorts takeover in Victoria, NSW

Blackstone, Crown Resorts acquisition

Blackstone’s A$8.9 billion ($6.3 billion) acquisition of Crown Resorts has taken a step forward with regulators in New South Wales and Victoria finding the U.S. investment group suitable to hold a license.

NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority Chairperson Philip Crawford said Blackstone had been subject to an extensive probity assessment that examined its capacity to address the risks and issues of concern identified in the Bergin Report.

The Bergin Report was one of three different inquiries into the business practices of Crown Resorts, which revealed serious lapses in corporate governance, as well as evidence of money laundering through its flagship Melbourne casino. All three probes found the operator to be unsuitable to hold a license.

“These approvals are a key step in the Authority’s ongoing work to ensure Crown Sydney is able to fully meet its undertakings for major operational, governance and structural reforms,” Crawford said.

“As the prospective owner of Crown Resorts, Blackstone has been required to demonstrate the highest standards of probity as well as a commitment to deliver the full suite of operational changes recommended by the Bergin Inquiry. 

“This commitment is vital to ensure Crown Sydney is free from criminal influence and properly manages the risks of harm associated with casino activities.”  

The Authority’s regulatory approvals follow a meeting of Crown shareholders on 20 May that voted overwhelmingly to accept Blackstone’s takeover offer.  The board accepted the bid in February after Blackstone sweetened its offer for a third time.

The company still needs approval from regulators in Western Australia and the Federal Court. 

The NSW authority said it is also working closely with Crown on plans for a conditional opening of gaming at Crown Sydney. It gave no further details on the timing of the potential opening of the company’s new casino at Barangaroo.

Fran Thorn, VGCCC, Blackstone, acquisition on Crown Resorts
Fran Thorn, VGCCC

In giving its approval, the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) said it has stipulated a series of measures that the two companies will have to adhere to and which are legally enforceable. 

“In reaching this decision, our specialist team put in many months of work investigating the suitability of the Blackstone Group to become an associate of the Melbourne casino operator,” said VGCCC Chairperson Fran Thorn.

“Our approval comes with stringent conditions which balance delivering stronger controls on the casino and ensuring it continues to be the flagship casino in Australia. We will take action should any of these conditions not be met by either Blackstone or Crown.”