Crown Resorts’ Struggles Threaten London’s Luxurious Aspinalls Club


London’s luxurious Aspinalls Club, an exclusive private member’s casino, is navigating choppy waters due to mounting regulatory pressures on its parent company, Australia’s Crown Resorts, a world away.

This private playground for big bettors, nestled in one of London’s elite neighborhoods, traditionally relied on arcade high-wattage whales around the world – that is, until recent events caused a dramatic dip in their numbers. The club, owned by Crown Resorts since 2011, now faces very real doubts over its financial footing as its parent company goes through rigorous scrutiny over its domestic gaming licenses.

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An internal document reviewed by the Evening Standard revealed that the loss-laden club hinged on Crown to weather their current fiscal storm, covering liabilities resulting from their shaky books. However, this plan carries considerable risks, as significant doubts surround the ability of Crown Resorts to stay afloat.

Stark warnings mentioned in the report suggest a grim future for Crown Resorts, indicating that adverse outcomes from Australian regulators could leave the company in the lurch, unable to access its assets, and unable to fulfill its liabilities in the conventional course of business.

Furthermore, the drought of high-rollers compounded Aspinalls’ woes. The casino reported losses of £2 million ($2.5 million) for the financial year ending on June 30, 2023. This signaled the deepening crisis of London’s VIP gaming sector, which typically catered to visitors from the Arab Gulf states. But this demographic has been thinning like old parchment, largely due to post-Brexit policy changes. The discontinuation of the duty-free system for foreign visitors within the UK has proven to be the ultimate game-changer, eliminating the previous 20% VAT refund on goods purchased by them.

Additionally, the UK Gambling Commission’s stern prohibitions on the use of credit cards for gambling dealt a heavy blow to the money-magnet casinos. The impact is evident in the capital, with three elite private members’ casinos — the Ritz Club, the Clermont, and Crockfords — sadly lowering their shutters just in recent years.

Meanwhile, down under, Crown Resorts is wrestling with its regulatory monsters, facing license audits in New South Wales and Western Australia. The operators stand accused of critical failures, ignoring red flags suggesting money laundering at their facilities, and dealing with Macau-based junket operators linked with organized crime.

Despite this downpour of ominous developments, a silver lining comes in the form of Crown Resorts acquiring the green light to operate its flagship property in Melbourne under the stewardship of its new American private equity owner, Blackstone. This safest haven was granted a reprieve after Aspinalls submitted its financial statement, according to the Evening Standard report. Crown had its Sydney license rescinded in 2020, yet managed to secure a provisional license in 2022, though it remains under controlled supervision.

Aspinalls Club, founded in the flamboyant 1960s by eccentric zoo tycoon John Aspinall, has a fascinating backstory. In a twist that is almost Hollywood script-worthy, the intrepid Aspinall poured his casino-induced fortune into amassing an astounding assortment of wild fauna. This intriguing aspect of history still whispers within the opulent walls of the Aspinalls, despite the contemporary crisis. The future, however, holds the cards that will determine the club’s fate in its hand.