Crown’s Victorian Licencing Fate Rides on Royal Commission Report

By Marina Zhang
Marina Zhang
Marina Zhang
October 15, 2021 Updated: October 15, 2021

An Australian Royal Commission’s report into whether Crown Casino should keep its license in the state of Victoria has been handed to that state’s government, but the details will only be made public at the end of October.

Former Federal Court judge Ray Finkelstein has spent five months examining whether the casino is fit to operate after the New South Wales Bergin Inquiry found Crown unsuitable to run its newly built casino at Barangaroo in Sydney.

The inquiry found that Crown had facilitated money laundering; an illegal process of legitimising money obtained through crimes. The casino partnered with junket operators that had links with criminal groups even after being made aware of this, thereby exposing its staff to risks of detention in China.

Tim Costello, chief advocate for Alliance for Gambling Reform, told Sky News that regulatory capture by Crown Casino could be why there has yet to be proper regulation of gambling and casinos. Regulatory capture is a form of corruption that results due to the regulators becoming overly sympathetic of firms.

“What really upsets me for the Victorian public is the money laundering which really is a code for enabling crime,” he said.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said he was prepared to rip up Crown’s licence to run its Melbourne casino if recommended by the Royal Commission.

The Royal Commissioner handed the report to Victorian Governor Linda Dessau on Friday. However, the Victorian Gaming Minister Melissa Horne said that the state government will take until the end of October to consider the findings.

“We’ll consider the findings and recommendations from the Royal Commission in detail and take whatever action is necessary to strengthen casino oversight in Victoria and ensure this never happens again,” she said in a statement.

But Deputy Nationals leader and Shadow Gaming Minister Steph Ryan has called for the immediate release of the Royal Commissioner’s findings.

“This really is a Royal Commission that Daniel Andrews never wanted to have and they’re now seeking to kick the can down the road,” Ryan told reporters on Friday.

“They should just face the music, release the report and let Victorians actually see what the findings of the Royal Commission are and what recommendations it’s making.”

Resignations of Crown’s upper management have already rolled out following the inquiry. Melbourne chief executive Xavier Walsh stepped down in August and will leave the company in December, and former Howard government minister Helen Coonan left her position as Crown Resorts interim chair.

A new Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission was announced in August to replace the gambling sector of the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR).

VGCCC’s focus is solely on regulating casinos and gambling operators. The Victorian Government also stated that there will be specialised group within this body that will be solely dedicated to casinos.

Marina Zhang