GAMBLING

Crown Resorts Position Puts London’s Aspinalls Casino in Peril

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Posted on: April 14, 2024, 03:47h. 

Last updated on: April 14, 2024, 03:47h.

London’s swanky Apsinalls Club has warned of “material uncertainty” over its future because of regulatory action against its parent company on the other side of the world.

Aspinalls, Crown Resorts, London
Aspinalls, like many of London’s upscale private member’s casinos, is facing turbulent times because of a dearth of high rollers visiting the British capital. (Image: Crown Resorts)

Since 2011, the private member’s club for high-rolling gamblers has been owned by Australia’s Crown Resorts, which is facing suitability reviews over its gaming licenses at domestic properties.

In a report seen by London’s Evening Standard, directors for loss-making Aspinalls said the casino would rely on Crown’s financial support to cover liabilities during current turbulent financial times.

But it noted there were “significant doubts” about Crown Resorts ability to continue as a going concern. Unfavorable decisions by Australian regulators could render Crown “unable to realize its assets and discharge its liabilities in the normal order of business,” it added.

High-Roller Drought

Aspinalls posted losses of £2 million ($2.5 million) for the year to June 30, 2023. London has been facing something of a high-roller drought in recent years. The UK capital’s VIP gaming sector has long been composed of visitors from the Arab Gulf states, a demographic that has recently thinned out.

That’s in part because the British government scrapped the duty-free system for foreign visitors after the UK left the European Union. Previously, visitors could recoup the 20% sales tax, known as value-added tax (VAT), on items purchased in the UK.

Casinos have also been affected by the UK Gambling Commission’s ban on using credit cards for gambling.

Three high-end London private member’s casinos have closed in recent years, the Ritz Club, the Clermont, and Crockfords.

Regulatory Headache

Meanwhile, in Australia, Crown Resorts is facing license reviews in New South Wales and Western Australia. This comes after regulators accused the company of turning a blind eye to money laundering at its properties and of doing business with Macau-based junket operators with links to organized crime.

The good news for Aspinalls is that Crown was last month given the all-clear to continue operating its flagship property in Melbourne under its new owner, the US private equity giant Blackstone. That decision came after Aspinall’s financial report was written, the Standard reports.

Crown was stripped of its Sydney license in 2020 but was reissued with a provisional license in 2022 and remains under probation.

Aspinalls was founded in the 1960s by John Aspinall, an eccentric zoo owner, who spent the vast fortune he amassed from his casino on building a huge collection of wild animals.

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