Crown Resorts on the Hunt for New Board Directors

people in board room
Despite Commissioner Patricia Bergin’s decision on whether or not Crown Resorts can retain its Sydney casino licence is not due for another two months, the casino operator is already making big internal changes, including new board directors.

The Age reports Crown director Harold Mitchell has been kicked off the hunt for new directors.

The media heavyweight who heads Crown’s people, remuneration and nominations committee caused a stir last week as he got to work sizing up headhunting firms to recruit potentially more than three new directors.

To be sure, the firms had expected the call.

After all of the operational shortcomings aired during the inquiry, many pointed to tenure and lack of independence on the board, making director turnover a near certainty.

Mitchell wasn’t expected to be the one heading the hunt for fresh talent.

Crown staff had expected board director Antonia Korsanos would lead the search, as she is regarded as one of the board’s best performers and is likely to stay on after the refresh.

Mitchell’s decision to help the search seems incongruous given Bergin’s particular focus on the independence of Crown’s directors or lack thereof.

Mitchell was appointed to the board in 2011 at the invitation of James Packer, with no formal application.

After Packer left the board, Mitchell says his conversations with the company’s largest shareholder were on topics worlds away from the gaming floor.

“The main thing that Mr Packer and I spoke about in the years that followed was how to keep your weight down,” Mitchell said.

Crown halts VIP room smoking in Melbourne amid dealers’ concerns

crown casino Melbourne logo

(Photo by William WEST / AFP) (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

Fears for its staff’s safety has prompted Crown Resorts to ban its high rollers from smoking cigarettes and cigars in enclosed VIP areas.

The New Daily reported in November that the last-minute backflip occurred on Monday night after complaints from Melbourne workers, who were worried about catching COVID-19 from smokers coughing and exhaling in their faces as they dealt cards.

A Crown spokesperson said: “We will ask customers to step outside to smoke as part of Crown’s cautious and gradual progression towards COVID normal.”

“We will reassess this again with the benefit of revised government directions next month.”

Coronavirus concerns were raised on Sunday when Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced casinos would be allowed to reopen from Monday under a further easing of lockdown restrictions.

Under the new rules, Crown’s Melbourne casino was now allowed up to 1000 patrons, with table games like blackjack and baccarat set to restart on Wednesday when the venue officially reopens.

Under a special legal exemption, big-spending high rollers are allowed to smoke while gambling in VIP areas to enable what Crown calls “significant international play”.

These people aren’t just regular gamblers, but what dealers call high net worth individuals, who can spend up to $500,000 in a single hand.

Even without a global pandemic, many dealers resented having to breathe in gamblers’ second-hand smoke, which can cause long-term respiratory issues later in life.

In October, Star Entertainment Group, owners of Treasury Casino and Star Casino on the Gold Coast and in Sydney moved to ban indoor smoking at its venues by 2023.

Only the ACT, South Australia and Tasmania have banned smoking in all enclosed areas of casinos, including high roller rooms.

Dealers at Crown hope the company follows suit.

William Brown

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