Helen Coonan to step down as Crown chair by the end of August

Helen Coonan to step down as Crown chair by the end of August

Crown Resorts interim chair Helen Coonan.

Crown Resorts (ASX: CWN) interim chair Helen Coonan will step down from her role by the end of August, the Victorian Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and Licence has heard today.

According to the company's senior counsel Michael Borsky, the embattled casino and hotel operator has made good progress on selecting a replacement for Coonan who stepped into the role in January 2020.

Coonan had already made it clear previously that she planned to step down as soon as the group selected a new chairman. This was initially tabled to occur before Crown's annual general meeting (AGM) in October, however Borsky's statements indicated the process has been expedited. 

"Crown draws to the Commission's attention that Ms Coonan, in any event, consistent with her evidence before you in this Commission, that she was looking to perform an orderly handover," Borsky said.

"We'll announce her retirement as interim executive chair, and from all Crown boards, as soon as Crown has appointed a new leader.

"Crown's expectation is that that new leader will be appointed by the 31st of August this year."

The announcement from Borsky comes as the senior counsel sought to defend allegations that Coonan was not a person of good repute.

"No conduct by Ms Coonan has been identified by Counsel assisting that reflects adversely on her character honesty or integrity," Borsky said.

The news follows an announcement made this morning which declared the CEO of Crown's Melbourne hotel and casino business Xavier Walsh was also stepping down from his role later this month.

In a short statement to the ASX, Crown said Walsh would remain available to assist the company until his employment at Crown ends on 9 December.

Coonan's planned departure comes as Crown is staring down a decision from the Victorian Royal Commission, headed by commissioner Ray Finkelstein, into whether the company is suitable to hold a gambling licence in Victoria.

That inquiry, which is examining allegations of misconduct against Crown, will hand down its recommendations on 15 October.

Shares in CWN are up 2.02 per cent to $9.11 per share at 3.06pm AEST. 

Victoria establishes new casino reglator

In the background of the Royal Commission into Crown the Victorian Government has established a new regulatory body tasked with holding Melbourne's casino operator to account.

Called the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC), the body will have oversight of all gambling and gaming activities within Victoria - from pokies through to the casino.

The VGCCC's structure and governance has been guided by the independent review into casino regulation, led by regulatory and public policy reform expert Deborah Cope.

The review has occurred in parallel with the Royal Commission and has made recommendations to Government regarding the appropriate regulatory requirements.

Unlike the existing regulator - the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) - the new overarching body will not regulate liquor licencing, ensuring its focus is solely on regulating our casino and gambling operators and minimising harm.

"We said we'd take action to strengthen casino oversight, and that's what we're doing with the establishment of a new gambling and casino regulator," Victorian minister for consumer affairs, gaming and liquor regulation Melissa Horne said.

"Unethical practices in the gambling industry won't be tolerated the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission will provide robust regulation of the Melbourne casino and wider gambling activity across the state."

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