(Adds details of WA inquiry, share price)
Feb 17 (Reuters) - Western Australia’s gambling watchdog announced an inquiry into Crown Resorts’ Perth casino, a fresh blow to the firm as it grapples with last week’s ruling that it was unfit to hold a gambling licence for its flagship new Sydney resort.
Wednesday’s news casts further uncertainty over Crown’s future direction, and follows a separate year-long inquiry by the New South Wales (NSW) state watchdog that found widespread money laundering and governance issues at the company’s casino in Melbourne.
That report last Tuesday called for sweeping changes to Crown’s board and culture and led to the resignation of four directors, including the chief executive officer. The report’s recommendation for a 10% shareholding limit for casino operators could also force major shareholder James Packer to dispose part of his 36% stake.
The latest inquiry puts the spotlight onto the two Crown casinos already operating in Australia - in Melbourne and Perth.
The Gaming and Wagering Commission of Western Australia said the independent inquiry would have the wide-reaching powers of a Royal Commission and would look into whether Crown Perth should have a gaming license in light of the NSW report.
Crown shares fell as much as 1.4% to A$9.62, underperforming a broader market that was 0.5% lower.
Crown, which has lost more than a fifth of its value from this time last year, said it would work with the Commission as it looks to regain trust.
“Crown is determined to play a constructive role with all of its regulators as it works to restore public and regulatory confidence in its operations,” Helen Coonan, Crown’s Executive Chairwoman said. (Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Pullin & Shri Navaratnam)