February 16, 2019
Here is a partial transcript from the 2017 Crown Resorts AGM, held in Melbourne.
Mayne: Good morning, Chair. I'm
Stephen Mayne, I'm representing the Alliance for Gambling Reform today. I am a
Director of the ASA but I'm not their representative today and Geoff is
representing ASA. So, I'm not associated with the ASA today.
James Packer: So, who are you representing?
Stephen Mayne: The Alliance for Gambling Reform. First one is actually just a general question on transparency. The AGM is not being webcast and you've got a very tough security regime. There'll probably be some interesting discussions today which most of the 60,000 shareholders won't get to access. So, I'm just asking initially if you can undertake to make a transcript or an audio file of proceedings available on the Crown website, so that everyone can see and the ASX can be fully informed on today's discussion?
John Alexander: We'll, Stephen, as you know we have never done that. It's something we'll consider for the future but it's not our current intention to do so.
Stephen Mayne: All right. I'm fine with your question rotation model, which is good. So, I appreciate two questions and then back to the end of the queue. So, my second question just to open up is, can you give us some detail on the breakdown between table games and poker machines at Crown Melbourne in terms of revenue? So, the main floor last year was $1.1 billion. We do get transparency across the rest of the venues in Victoria. Every single bowls club or cricket club has to reveal their precise poker machine revenue, but we don't get any breakdown from Crown that I've seen anywhere. So, could you give us that figure. Of that $1.1 billion, how much revenue is generated from the 2,683 $10 maximum bet poker machines that we have at Crown Melbourne?
John Alexander: I think the number's actually closer to $1.2 billion dollars than $1.1b in terms of main gaming floor revenue. As you know, since Crown has been a standalone public company we have not done that, we've actually always disclosed our revenue in two sets: main floor gaming revenue and VIP program play. Our main floor gaming revenue is not just mostly slot machines, it's table games and electronic game machines. And it's not just generated by Victorians, a large component comes from interstate and international patrons. Slot machines is a very important business for us but it's by no means our largest business on our main gaming floor.
Stephen Mayne: Is it $300-400 million? Can you give us any insight?
John Alexander: No.
Facilitator: Mr Chairman, I'd like to introduce Aaron Patrick
Aaron Patrick: Hello, my name's Aaron Patrick and I'm writing a book about the company. I'm also a journalist as some of you may know and I'm writing more about the company. Mr Chairman, just in relation to your report, this company has undergone some major changes in strategy over the last couple of years. Your report hasn't really addressed that. There was the idea of a property spin off and then recently you've done this radical shift in strategy from a global strategy to an Australian strategy. Mr Packer for many years was coming to the AGMs and talking about turning Crown into a global brand. Now, that has completely shifted and the future of this company seems to have been bet on Barangaroo Sydney, which, sure, looks like a great project but is subject to considerable risk, particularly in terms of the Chinese gamblers who may or may not come. In your address today you spent less time talking about the company strategy. I don't believe you addressed the shift in strategy at all and you spent more time talking about the company's excellent diversity strategy, but perhaps less relevant to the returns for investors.
So, my point is this, why does this company not clearly articulate to its investors what has been the reason behind such a fundamental shift in strategy and given Mr Packer has returned to the board and he is the one who appointed you Executive Chairman, perhaps it'd be appropriate for Mr Packer to answer this question?
James Packer: Aaron, nice to see you for the first time in person. I think you overlooked perhaps intentionally, perhaps unintentionally the reality that 16 staff were put in jail in China last year and Crown does take the welfare of its employees very seriously, very, very seriously, and I think that that, in truth, forced the Crown directors' hands to a large degree in relation to Macau. Now, you're right, I've been coming up here for – ever since I guess Crown bought the sub-concession in Macau in 2006 and talking about an international strategy, and we don't have that today.
But in terms of the list of Australian companies that have gone offshore and have come back to Australia with their tail between their legs, I think we're at the top of the list in terms of, we actually made a couple of billion dollars on our adventure, and that's net because we made $3.7 billion in Macau and lost $1.5 billion in Vegas. So, we didn't succeed in a global strategy. I think that when we had our staff arrested in Macau, that was a message that we all took – I wasn't on the board – but I think the board took in terms of selling out of Macau. And I think you're also being slightly flippant about Sydney. You're right in one sense, Sydney is a $2.4 billion investment, so it's a very substantive investment.
I can't speak to the board in terms of how confident the board is about Crown Sydney, but as every day passes I become more confident and that's not just because I've woken up on the right side of the bed, that's because VIP volumes are starting to increase again into Australia and that's because Sydney real estate prices continue to hold up and we obviously are receiving inbounds in terms of the apartment sales that they're going to start making in the near future. So, I think that answers – that's my attempt to answer your question and I hope I've covered all of what it is.
Facilitator: Mr Chairman, we have Tim Costello, he's a shareholder (wrong) and proxy holder (right).
Tim Costello: Good morning, I'm from the Alliance for Gambling Reform. My question is, I know or we all know that the gambling industry is very powerful in Australia, partly because of political donations to parties and certainly because of hiring ex-politicians who are well connected still. Why do we need the likes of Karl Bitar and Mark Arbib and Stephen Conroy, Graham Richardson, Peta Credlin and Helen Coonan working either for Crown or for the controlling shareholder?
John Alexander: I think like many Australian companies we're entitled to employee lobbyist consultants that we see useful or relevant to our ambitions.
Facilitator: Mr Chairman, we have Anna Bardsley here.
Anna Bardsley: Thank you. I have a proxy to speak, forgive me if I don't follow the protocols, it's my first time. I'm a retired businesswoman and a lot of other things and also a recovering poker machine addict. It's 10 years since I put any money into a machine, but those 10 years of recovery have been long and hard. I turned into a person I didn't recognise. I was always ethical and responsible and all that sort of stuff. What I want to ask you is, how much do you know about the real people who are harmed by particularly poker machines which are known to be addictive, they're designed that way? And an example I have to give you is, I haven't been here in this place for over 10 years, because I used to come here, and it was very hard to even think about coming. If I see or hear a poker machine accidentally, because I don't go anymore, they still have the power to trigger my brain and if that's not addictive, I'd like to know what is? And so, I challenge you to hear more voices like mine and believe me, it won't be easy to find them because it's really hard to put the shame aside that comes with a gambling addiction to stand up and speak about it and I have not been able to do it alone. But I encourage you to hear the voices and to recognise that what your product is doing is more than just getting you a lot of money. So, can I leave that with you?
John Alexander: Yes, you can and look, we're obviously very sympathetic to your personal situation and the general points you raise and I can assure you we do take responsible gaming issues very seriously, we invest quite a lot of money over the years, a lot of time over the years to become a world leader. Our property was the first in the world to have specially trained staff over 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It's an ongoing process. We're learning all the time and basically we're always frankly trying to improve. In fact, it's probably worthwhile my introducing Professor Horvath, who's the Chair of our Responsible Gaming Committee to give you perhaps some insights about where this process is and what we're trying to achieve?
Anna Bardsley: I'd like to handover the term, ‘responsible gambling', to everybody in the sector, including you who operate the machines and the government who gets a lot of money from it. It's not only the people who put the money in who need to be responsible.
James Packer: Can I just make a comment? I'm very sympathetic for the difficulties that the last 10 years has put you through. Crown is a company that runs casinos, that's the business we're in. It's impossible to run casinos without having tables and slots because that's what creates the revenue. I think we have a real responsibility to make sure people aren't harming themselves, because in truth if that happens it becomes bad for our business because there'll be political backlash, let alone the human cost which is very, very real.
Gambling is a complicated industry and there are many players in it, and some of the players in it have, I would say, a less ethical approach than the approach we try to have. The thing that probably makes me proudest of Crown is we've won – and this is on the staff side, not the customer side, so excuse me for digressing – but we've won the Best Employer in Australia, an award given by the Federal Government, three times in the last seven years. Three times in the last seven years. There's no other company in Australia that's won it twice. Alan Joyce might talk about how good Qantas is, Lindsay Fox might talk about how good he is and Atlassian might talk about how good they are, but we've actually won it three times in the last seven years. And why I think that's relevant is because our staff are trained to look for problem gamblers and to try and ensure that cases like yours don't happen. And, Tim, this is one of the things that frustrates me, maybe because we're a bigger company, maybe because we're more well-known or maybe even because I'm more well-known. Andrew Wilke throws something into Parliament which is a lie and which gets a lot of headlines and which gets you here for the AGM and all of those things.
But, within the gambling industry we try our hardest to be a good corporate citizen and I'd really like you to think about what it means for a company to win Best Employer in Australia three times in seven years and for you to think about the fact that there's no other company that's won it twice. So, we're not perfect, we're not perfect and yours is a very sorry and sad story. But, as I said before, from a business perspective the worst thing that can happen to us is examples of people who blow themselves up in our facility because then we will get backlash.
Aaron Patrick's writing a book on me and I think it's going to be, you know, more bad chapters than good chapters, but one of the things about Crown is again to show we are different to the games industry, the slide that John Alexander put when he was going through his Chairman's Report about how much we were investing, how much we have invested in our properties in Perth and Melbourne. Here it's been made abundantly clear that there is a desire from some of our shareholders or some people who are representing legitimate particular groups for there to be more transparency in Crown both on the revenue side and the allocation of revenue between tables and slots, and also on the regulatory side. And I think that that is fair enough.
I think it's hard for John, sitting at the top of the table, to answer those questions immediately when we've had a policy not to do that. And I'm only one director and I'm not the Chairman, I've consciously come back as being one voice and I don't want to be more than one voice, but from my perspective I think it's a conversation that the board should have because we are living in a world of more and more transparency and with the beneficiary of these licences and more than that, I'm proud of Crown. And someone asked the question, ‘How can we understand how you won Employer of the Year three times in seven years if you don't disclose anything about anything?'
So, I'm going to say to John – I am saying to John that we should have a conversation around the board table about what levels of transparency are appropriate for today, and I think that companies have to be more transparent today than they were 10 years ago.
John Horvath: If I could come in here? I'm John Horvath and I Chair the Responsible Gaming Committee and I would be very comfortable for most of the statistics from our committee to be more transparent and I'm happy to discuss that with John and the board. I take it very seriously. It is a committee that meets six times a year, which is more than any other board subcommittee. I was asked by James in 2009, before really much of the issues around gaming became so controversial…
James Packer: John, you might talk about your background before that, because…
John Horvath: My background, before that I was The Commonwealth Government's Chief Medical Officer. I was Professor of Medicine and a transplanter. And James asked me to come on board to establish at a board level, responsible gaming. I'm well aware that many millions of people comfortably are able to manage all feelings of wagering and gaming, but regrettably there are a small number that it certainly harms. It harms them and it harms their families and the work of our committee is to try and minimise that to a great extent. Even before I came onto the board, I think it was 2002, this company was the first to introduce a whole lot of measures to try and address the issue. I'm happy to talk, Tim, with you and others to see if we can do the job better. I don't like failure. I regard anybody who we miss and not be able to help as a failure of us, not of them. So, if there are ways we can improve what we do for those few people who are harmed by the various gaming activities, well, we will try and do a better job.
John Alexander: All right, thank you very much. The second item of business is the election of directors, Crown's constitutional requirements in the election of directors much take place each year and generally one-third of directors, other than the Managing Director, must retire at each AGM. If eligible, those directors may offer themselves for re-election. During the year, the board resolved to appoint Mr James Packer as a Director. James Packer's appointment took effect from August the 3rd this year. Crown's constitution requires that James retires from office at this meeting and seeks election by shareholders. Being eligible, James offers himself for election. Of the company's other directors, Andrew Demetriou and Harold Mitchell, also retiring in accordance with the company's constitution. Being eligible, each of Andrew Demetriou and Harold Mitchell offer themselves for re-election as a director. Detailed biographies for each director standing for election and re-election are included in the 2017 Annual Report. Their biographies have been available on the company's website and accordingly I do not propose to repeat the biographies this morning. As mentioned, the first of our directors up now for election is James Packer. I now propose a resolution that Mr James Packer, who retires in accordance with rule 5.1E of the company's constitution and being eligible is elected as director.
The other proxies received which are on the screens, before the meeting on the resolution were shown the screen. I will now invite questions and comments on the election of James Packer, are there any questions or comments?
Stephen Mayne: Chairman, we're very happy with what you've said and James has said on the transparency front, The Alliance of Gambling Reform. So, our business today is largely done, we're very pleased that you've made that commitment. It would be good to see a transcript obviously of the meeting or an audio file. So, my first question: would that be part of the transparency? Can we actually have the discussion today made public?
[Inaudible response [24:30.0]
Stephen Mayne: Well, no, what I'm saying is that you've made some comments today and none of us have a record of them. So, you've got all the recording and you've banned all phones and so, I just want to get on the record what you've said, which we think is terrific, the commitment to transparency. And I think along the same theme, last week if you look at the ASX announcements, 60,000 shareholders in Crown got a two-paragraph statement saying what Wilkie said was rubbish. And then there's 8,800 words in The Australian on Saturday with a massive interview with you, James, which was really interesting.
But I actually think it was quite market sensitive. I think many of the comments you made about debt in CPH and your views on Japan and all this sort of stuff was quite market sensitive. I spoke to Damon Kitney, the journalist, earlier and asked him if he'd make the transcript available and he tended to think it might be possible. That would be an example of transparency.
James Packer: I disagree with you on that and that's an interview I gave a couple of weeks ago and it just happened to come out on Saturday.
Stephen Mayne: Yeah, but what I'm saying is that you giving an interview, James, like that, when you control the company, it's market sensitive. Because, as Aaron said, strategy changes so how you're thinking and what you're saying, the shareholders are all trying to interpret that. So, use the ASX announcements platform as the principle place to make disclosures to everyone and…
James Packer: Well, as you know, Stephen, I don't give many interviews. They happen about once every five years, so next time I'll think of that.
Stephen Mayne: Yeah, that would be good.
John Alexander: Stephen, can I just say? We actually took advice obviously on our continuous disclosure obligations and we initially reviewed the relevant articles and our advice we received was that they did not consider that disclosure was required.
Stephen Mayne: All right. Well, I found it fascinating and I'm sure everyone in the room… Anyway, I'll just make that point. We'll have one more I think with Andrew, but we're very happy and happy to support James's re-election to the board and hope, James, you can really drive this whole transparency agenda.
James Packer: Well, let's not verbalise something. We said we'd have a look and the world is heading in that direction. So, it may well be that we don't give you and Tim and everyone everything that you may require but the board's going to have a serious look about it and talk about it and I think it's a legitimate thing to bring up, the transparency.
John Alexander: If there are no other questions, I'll now ask you to vote on the resolution to elect James. As I said earlier, to vote please press 1 on your handset; To vote against, press 2; and to abstain, press 3. [Pauses for a moment] Have any shareholders not voted?
Then, thank you very much. The poll is now closed and I advise that the votes to the resolution have been counted and displayed on the screen. As you can see, the result shows the resolution as being passed. So, I declare the motion to elect James Packer carried. Congratulations, James.
John Alexander: The next director up for re-election is Andrew Demetriou. I now propose the resolution that Mr Andrew Demetriou who retires in accordance with rule 5.1F of the company's constitution and being eligible is re-elected as a director. The valid proxies received before the meeting of the resolution was shown on the screen. I'll now invite questions and comments on the motion, are there any questions?
Tim Costello: Andrew, hello.
Andrew Demetriou: Hello, Tim.
Tim Costello: So, Crownbet and ads… Whilst pokies are $13 billion dollars of the $23 billion we lose and sports betting is only $1 billion, I have never seen a reaction to the deluge of ads in my whole time, 25 years, of raising the gambling issue. I'm literally stopped in the streets by mothers who are outraged that their kids now know odds and footballers, cricketers have been turned into race horses. Racing always existing for betting but football and cricket didn't. I'd just be really interested to know from you, as the head of Crownbet, are you troubled by this public visceral reaction to Crownbet and Sportsbet and lots of others? They're not all Crownbet.
Would you support a siren to siren ban? So, kids at least – they're banned at 8:30 – only means it's halftime, so the kids are still going to be getting exposed to it and try and put your kids to bed at halftime in an exciting game. I'd be interested in your views and where we're going on this?
Andrew Demetriou: Thanks, Tim. Well, first of all I'll just correct you, I'm not the head of Crownbet, I'm just a Director of Crownbet, sitting as a director on behalf of Crown and nor do I desire to be the head of Crownbet. So, I'll put that on the table. That's a very interesting question because in my previous life we saw the significant backlash that came with the proliferation of advertising particularly during games at the AFL, scoreboards… Originally, the explosion happened that all the odds were going up during a game or after a goal and we got lots of feedback and it was the right feedback that there were lots of families and children who were starting to learn odds and families getting outraged by that.
Back then, we conducted a process, participated strongly in the process to actually have self-regulation, met all the codes, all the stadiums got together to come up with some protocols and the betting agencies to come up with some protocols around that. That went very well for a time until I think it was a representative of Channel Nine who was on there, did a lot of advertising, decided to go out on his own. It was Waterhouse and that undid a lot of very good work to be quite honest.
I think there's been lots of significant progress since then and Harold's on the board here, Harold represents free tv and he can vouch for this, but in answer to your direct question there has been now some significant progress being made, so much so that there will be no advertising that goes on from the bounce to siren. It will only be advertising up until the start of the game. That's been agreed by all players in the market, the betting agencies, the government, the sporting codes all welcomed it, I might add. And I think further to your question, I can say on behalf of Crownbet, I think Crownbet does run responsible ads. I think some of the ads in this industry are tacky and controversial, and often they're controversial just to get attention. They're controversial to help just get attention to their brand. I think it does a great disservice to all the players in the market and it affects Crownbet because we all get tarred with the same brush. But I think there's been real progress made in some responsible advertising regimes that were put in place to address the very concerns you've raised, because they are legitimate concerns.
Tim Costello: Siren to siren?
Andrew Demetriou: That's stopped. There won't be any advertising siren to siren, only up until the bounce.
Tim Costello: indistinguishable
Andrew Demetriou: No, no. Harold, has it stopped from siren to siren?
Harold Mitchell: Yeah, no siren to siren.
Andrew Demetriou: No siren to siren, definitely.
Harold Mitchell: Tim, it's worthwhile knowing that Crownbet has supported these sorts of advertising restrictions for the last two years. We urged the industry to self-regulate before – if it didn't self-regulate there'd be political interference, which is what's happened. We urged the codes, including the AFL, to restrict and they thought about it and chose not to. So, the changes we're seeing now, we were, we think, ahead of them.
Stephen Mayne: One quick one for Andrew. The British Football Association recently terminated their sponsorship arrangement with Ladbrokes after blow-ups and controversy over players getting addicted and players attacking the code saying, ‘Well, they're in it, so I'm in it.' And the British FA responded by saying, ‘We've got a conflict of interest. We can't be a regulator and be taking the cash from gaming companies.' So, the very specific question is, we are the preferred online wagering partner of the AFL, is there a risk that the same thing will happen here in Australia and then the AFL would decide to terminate all partnerships that it has directly with Crownbet and any other gambling companies?
Andrew Demetriou: Well, Stephen, in case you've – I'll remind you, I've retired from the AFL, so I can't speak for the AFL. But having said that, it is a conundrum for the codes, it's a conundrum for the AFL. Because on the one hand, without a – and I'll call it a relationship, a partnership with a betting agency – you can't police your code, you can't get the access to the information to provide an integrity regime to protect your code. It was only when the AFL, when I was there, had to partner with all the betting agencies and now it's got a preferred partner in Crownbet, that we couldn't police the code.
We didn't get access to betting sheets, we couldn't veto certain bets that were being – we couldn't stop all these sort of bastardised caricatures of ads being done. So, what we had to do was provide our IP in return for all the access to the betting sheets. And that's how we find people who are betting, that's how we find players who are betting, that's how we find all the significant movements in a game, where all of a sudden there's a plunge on the first goal. So, if we want to police the code – and all the money I know that the AFL raised went into its integrity code, integrity officers and so forth – if you want to protect the code you've got to have a relationship. So, it's a conundrum. I don't know whether they're going to terminate, you'll have to put that question to the Chief Executive, but it's a conundrum for the codes.
Stephen Mayne: Well, I guess the point is is that local government in Victoria is running a proper governance regime on conflict of interest, whereas it doesn't apply at state and federal. You can donate a million dollars and no minister will ever declare a conflict, they'll sit there as Helen Coonan knows. She would never have declared a conflict because the Liberal Party got a donation from someone she was regulating in the communication space. It's hopeless from the governance point of view.
Harold Mitchell: Absolutely, I agree, and on the point of transparency, I had no idea that that was the case. I had no idea.
Stephen Mayne: But, my question for you and broadly to the company as well, in Britain now public companies cannot donate to politicians or even industry bodies without shareholder approval and it's fallen by 90%, and it's cleaned up… The perception of public donations, it lowers confidence because people think that rent seekers can buy their way to favours by making big political donations. So, this company and James, your family, has a history of making large political donations which have totalled millions of dollars over the years.
James Packer: With respect, that has changed since we owned Crown because there are now restrictions and prohibitions on what CPH can donate to anyone and they are cumulatively added state by state. So, if Western Australia has a higher bar than Victoria we are bound by that and then New South Wales is going to have a high bar. How much can we give in donations now at CPH?
Male: I think it's a $100,000 limit.
James Packer: I think it's a $100,000 limit and I wish it was a zero dollar limit, because then people couldn't ask. But if we're giving $100,000 dollars to the Labor Party and we're giving $100,000 dollars to the Liberal Party it's not going to change anything. That does not deliver access.
Stephen Mayne: I guess my request is this, John is a famous cost-cutter. So, let's have a policy of zero. At the family level – because I mean your mother gave half a million to the Liberals in New South Wales five years ago.
James Packer: I can't control my mum. Do you control your mother?
Stephen Mayne: I could say, ‘Mum, don't give the Liberal Party half a million dollars while I'm trying to get approval for Barangaroo'. So, I mean, it's not a good look.
James Packer: Well, it happened to coincide well.
Harold Mitchell: Can I bring you back to where you started? So, will you take this up with the Lord Mayor?
Stephen Mayne: I already have. I tried to get him to take an anti-pokies position the other day and you can't. He's conflicted. He's out of the game.
Harold Mitchell: I had no idea.
Stephen Mayne: Yeah. But, can we go zero? Serious question – can we have a policy which is zero?
James Packer: I think we should.
Stephen Mayne: Great! I'd love the transcript on that too, it was a great comment!
Helen Coonan: Can I add something there about New South Wales? Anyone associated with a casino, including directors, are totally prohibited. You cannot make a donation to a political party in New South Wales.
Stephen Mayne: The clubs can.
James Packer: We can't. So, but to get back to the Tim Costello point, we should be treated differently. And to your point, Tim, the problem is we're not. Your friends, Nick Xenophon and Andrew Wilkie put us in the same bucket and as they try and go out and hurt the clubs, they try and hurt just as much. So, maybe we can all get on better and find ways to work together, but you know, Andrew Wilkie's got to realise instead of poking us the first chance he gets, we're not the bad guys in this game.
Tim Costello: Can I just respond and pretend it's a question to Harold? If that's the formality… So, I basically agree with that. [Indistinct – paper shuffling [46:50.0] then we have to have a serious conversation about how in Tasmania there is a chance all parties, depending on how Labor now vote, are out of the state and it's just at one destination, the casino. I think that actually is why in Western Australia the problem gambling levels are half, because there aren't pokies everywhere.
But in having that conversation with you, and clearly for Harold the donation has triggered a whole set of things that suddenly tie hands on doing this, which is terrible, but in having that conversation we still need to know about what revenue comes from pokies here, James. We still need to know. People should know that it's $10 dollar spins here and it's only $5 dollar elsewhere. We need still transparency. But if it's destination, it is a different sort of business and I'm happy to work with you on that.
James Packer: And I'm happy to work…
Tim Costello: But we feel the push-back.
James Packer: I've already said on the transparency thing, that the board should have a conversation about that, because from my perspective I can't even remember why we never broke down tables versus slots. But, I'm only one director, so I don't want to pre-empt anything. But, saying this is how much we make in tables and this is how much we make in slots in this day and age, it's not as though we're giving away the kitchen sink.
Tim Costello: No, yeah.
James Packer: But you get your friends, Andrew Wilke and Xenophon, to stop treating us like the clubs.
Tim Costello: I had nothing to do with Andrew Wilkie, I didn't know anything about that story, okay? Nick Xenophon now is going to be a state's politician, so let's…
James Packer: Yeah. In 2009, you were with them and they were trying to hurt us just as badly as they were trying to hurt the clubs.
Tim Costello: In 2000, the Un-Australian Campaign, we understood you were backing with some dollars that attempt to stop reform. I've never been a prohibitionist, but when we attempted to say, let's have $1 dollar bets, let's slow the machines down, we understood that you were also part of that, James.
James Packer: Yeah, because I don't think if there's $1 dollar bets it should apply at Crown. We're a casino. We've spent $2 billion in the last eight years on this place and that's after Lloyd spent $2 billion on it in the first place. We are in the casino integrated resort business, what do you want me to do?
Tim Costello: But when you're standing with all the pokies, people stopping reform which the Productivity Commission reports have recommended, that's when you become the target. That's when you're not seeing the…
James Packer: No, but if we're the target, we're going to fight back. What I thought you said a minute ago is, ‘James, I can accept and understand that you're different to the pubs and clubs.'
Tim Costello: I believe pokies still do damage in casinos but I would limit them only to casinos. That's the position I'm making, James.
James Packer: Well, that's not going to happen, Tim. That's a dream.
Tim Costello: Well, that might happen in Tasmania and then that's a ripple effect, and I think we'll start to see – and this will be my final point on this – that if the public move which has always been predominantly to hate pokies, they've worked out they're built for addiction, they're predatory. There's that sense of, but we can't do anything about it. You just expressed that. I actually think if there's one state government that moves on that, that makes two state governments with Western Australia. That's worth you thinking about, particularly when I'm saying a casino is a different sort of business.
James Packer: We've all got a lot to think about.
John Alexander: All right, so I think we should take the matter at hand to the re-election of Harold Mitchell…
END OF TRANSCRIPT
Remuneration discussion as Packer exercises control
The meeting then proceeded to deal with two resolutions related to remuneration matters before closing. These were actually quite interesting because James Packer decided to vote his 48.5% stake in favour of the remuneration report, thereby saving it from a strike. He said this decision was made by CPH CEO Guy Jalland, who is about to join the Crown board.
We had an amusing exchange about his family's long tradition of drawing no salary from public companies, in stark contrast to other billionaires, and there was also a discussion about which proxy advisers recommended against the remuneration items.
The practice of Rich Listers voting in favour of their own remuneration reports is mixed in Australia. James Packer used to not vote and Kerry Stokes has never done so, but the Kirby family at Village Roadshow controversially voted in favour for many years, despite pocketing millions. This finally stopped in 2016.
As the Crown AGM results show, there was also a 13.14% protest vote against the excessive $9 million payout to former CEO Rowen Craigie.
I asked whether Craigie's successor John Alexander was also overpaid and James Packer made it very clear that he fully supports what his chief lieutenant is doing.
Alexander is a former Fairfax journalist, so it is a little surprising he doesn't embrace the transparency piece a little more enthusiastically.
Still, James Packer has publically promised a review so we will wait to see what comes of it. Lodging an AGM transcript with the ASX request is the first test.
End of transcript
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