Perth Casino Royal Commission started this week with new evidence and witnesses appearing daily. On Thursday, Seven West Media chief executive Maryna Fewster openly criticised the corporate structure which operated West Australia’s only casino.
Fewster was the last person acting as a director supposedly overlooking Crown Perth operations, leading her to unload at the hearing. She said the board lacked independence, leading to a vacuum of information after the imposition at the beginning of the year.
Fewster has acted as a non-executive director of Burswood Limited, under the ASX-listed Crown Resorts Limited, making her the longest-tenured board member. Unfortunately, she came to that position with every board member’s exit since the New South Wales inquiry confirmed Crown Resort’s involvement with money laundering. The same report concluded that the company could not hold a gambling licence for the new Sydney casino.
During her witness statement, Fewster told the Commission that the Burswood board could not execute the duties needed to run a casino. She said that included the historical majority of senior executives at the company.
She added that putting Crown Perth first was a priority. She said this was possible only by starting at the top and replacing most non-executive directors with their primary interest being Western Australia.
Fewster made it known that the board had not held a meeting for five months, from December to April, while the company was in the midst of a crisis. On the other hand, the company’s parent company held 18 meetings in the same period. She added that she had filed eight requests for a board meeting but felt a complete vacuum of information during that time.
The only board meeting was held in April, with the board pack arriving less than 48 hours before the meeting.
All board packs provided at the meeting were low-quality, seeming to be slapped together. She compared the experience with the West Coast Eagles, saying she had had more training regarding problem gambling there.
Ms Fewster, Crown Perth chief executive Lonnie Bossi, and Crown chairwoman Helen Coonan are the only three directors currently at the table of the Burswood Limited board.
In other news, Mr Poyton, the board’s chairman in 2020, disclosed that previous board meetings were held only quarterly and were sometimes shorter than 30 minutes. He said that he increased the board meetings to six a year since his appointment and increased their duration.
However, in his statement on Wednesday, Mr Poyton also said that the board acted more as an advisory board than anything else, thoroughly covering any issues in the meetings. Yet, he still stated that the duration of the meetings was short compared to typical board meetings.
Ms Fewster contradicted Mr Poyton’s statement by stating the board should have met at least ten times a year with a half a day set aside for proceedings.