Victoria to investigate Crown Resorts’ suitability for casino licence in Melbourne

Victoria’s Government has announced a royal commission into Crown Resorts to assess the casino operator’s suitability to hold its casino licence in Melbourne.

State Premier Daniel Andrews announced that a royal commission will be held to consider whether Crown Melbourne should be allowed retain its Victorian licence that is used to operate its flagship casino and entertainment resort, and also consider the suitability of its associates, including the owner Crown Resorts Ltd.

This comes after an 18-month long New South Wales (NSW) inquiry into the casino operator which saw former Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin assess evidence of the operator’s role in facilitating money laundering and its links to organised crime.

The NSW inquiry, which was carried out by Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA), found that Crown was unfit to hold a licence at its new casino in Sydney. This inquiry led to the resignation of Crown’s chief executive Ken Barton earlier in February.

The Royal Commission

The inquiry will be headed by the former Federal Court judge Raymond Finkelstein, QC. The royal commission will have the power to compel documentation and witnesses.

The commission is expected to offer its recommendations by 1 August 2021, with the Government set to legislate so that the Victorian Gaming and Liquor Regulation Commission can take necessary actions.

The Victorian government said it had taken advice on the most appropriate way to proceed following the findings of the NSW inquiry into the casino giant.

In a statement, Andrews said: “This is about making sure that those who hold a casino licence in Victoria uphold the highest standards of probity and integrity – and that they’re accountable for their actions.”

The review into Crown will run alongside a previously established review into Crown’s suitability which will look at several areas including the requirements for regulating money laundering and junket operations.

Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation Melissa Horne said: “The reports from New South Wales’ ILGA Inquiry were incredibly concerning, which is why we’re establishing a Royal Commission to get the answers we need about Crown Melbourne.”

“The Royal Commission will establish the facts and the Government and the VCGLR will take any necessary action at the conclusion of the investigation. We will not tolerate illegal behaviour in our gaming industry.”

Crown’s response to the royal commission

Shortly after the government announcement, Crown Resorts acknowledged the launch of the royal commission to assess its suitability to hold a licence in Victoria.

Helen Coonan, Crown’s Executive Chairman, said: “Crown welcomes the announcement from the Victorian Government as it provides an opportunity to detail the reforms and changes to our business to deliver the highest standards of governance and compliance, and an organisational culture that meets community expectations.

“Victorians should be assured we recognise the responsibility placed on us by the community, governments and regulators and we will fully cooperate with the Royal Commission.”

Alongside this announcement, this morning, Crown announced the resignation of long-serving director Harold Mitchell from the company’s board.