Federal Court to Hear of Underpayment Claims From Former Skycity Ceo

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A former SkyCity casino boss is claiming the casino group fired him from his high-paying role to avoid paying hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bonuses.

Adelaide Now reports that Luke Walker, who was general manager of the casino from February 2017 to April 2019 is suing his former employer over claims it failed to pay him bonuses earned during his tenure.

Walker was paid $525,000-a-year to run the Adelaide casino.

In a statement of claim filed in the Federal Court, Mr Walker argued SkyCity breached the contract that set out the terms and conditions of his employment, including the company’s short-term and long-term incentive plans.

He says the company failed to pay him cash bonuses for the 2018 and 2019 financial years, despite being entitled to an annual payment of up to 40 per cent of his $525,000 base salary.

He also claims SkyCity failed to issue him shares in 2018 as part of the company’s long-term incentive agreements, and on termination of his employment, refused to settle payment for close to 130,000 shares earned as part of those agreements.

In its defence, SkyCity said the company’s short-term incentive program was replaced with a new scheme, known as the “Further Incentive Agreement”, in 2018, based on the issue of restricted shares rather than cash payments.

It argues the early termination of Mr Walker’s employment meant he failed to meet the vesting requirements of the shares he’d accrued and precluded him from additional bonus entitlements under another new scheme, known as the Performance Incentive Plan, introduced in 2019.

Mr Walker relocated to Adelaide to take up the general manager role in 2017, following three years as executive general manager of electronic gaming at Crown Casino in Melbourne.

On his LinkedIn profile, he said key achievements during his time at SkyCity included securing approval for the $330 million expansion of Adelaide Casino “after several years of stalling” and turning around its financial performance “following a steep five-year decline in EBITDA, EBIT and net profit”.

Walker alleges axing was to prevent bonus payments

David Christian replaced Mr Walker following his departure in 2019, returning to the role following the sale of SkyCity’s Darwin casino resort, which he’d been heading up since mid-2016.

In his statement of claim, Mr Walker argues his axing was also a breach of contract, and was carried out to avoid SkyCity having to pay the bonus payments he was seeking.

In its defence, SkyCity said at meetings with the company’s HR manager, chief operating officer and then chief executive Graeme Stephens, Mr Walker was informed that Mr Stephens “had formed the view that there existed a substantial incompatibility between the applicant and the first respondent.”

It says it complied with its contractual obligations by paying out $304,332.98 on termination of Mr Walker’s employment, in lieu of the required 12 months’ notice period set out in his employment contract.

In addition to claims of breach of contract, Mr Walker argued SkyCity also contravened Australian consumer law by misleading him about the company’s incentive programs and other conditions of employment during negotiations leading up to his appointment.

SkyCity denies those claims.

Mr Walker has remained in Adelaide since his exit from SkyCity and is currently chief operating officer at Journey Beyond, the travel company that operates train journeys including The Ghan and The Overland.

Mr Walker and SkyCity both declined to comment on the proceedings.

The matter has been listed for a case management hearing on May 7.

Rose Varrelli avatar
Rose Varrelli
Senior Casino & News Writer

Hi there! I’m Rose, and with nine years behind me in the iGaming industry, I craft engaging narratives at CasinoAus. My education in Communication across Europe has sharpened my skills in fintech, casino legislation, and digital marketing. Backed by a strong foundation in SEO, storytelling, and cross-cultural communication, I’m passionate about creating content that resonates globally and educates our audience.

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