Crown Melbourne gets green light to keep casino licence

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Sarah-Jane Tasker
The Nightly
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The Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission has handed down its decision on Crown Melbourne’s licence.
The Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission has handed down its decision on Crown Melbourne’s licence. Credit: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

The Victorian casino regulator has given Crown Resorts the all clear to keep is casino licence in Melbourne after a two year review.

Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commissioner Fran Thorn said the full commission decided Crown Melbourne had addressed the failings identified by the 2021 royal commission into the casino operator and licence.

She said the royal commission detailed how Crown Melbourne had breached its legal, social and moral obligations, resulting in illegal activities, tax avoidance, money laundering, criminal associations, and significant harm to vulnerable community members, ultimately finding Crown Melbourne unsuitable to hold its casino Licence.

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“Despite the enormity of its findings, the Finkelstein royal commission recommended Crown be permitted to continue operating under stringent independent oversight conditions for two years, determining it had the will and capacity to transform itself to again become suitable, which would be to Victoria’s benefit,” she said.

Ms Thorn added the scrutiny of the gambling industry and casino operators was now higher.

“The commission considers the issues identified by the royal commission have been comprehensively addressed,” Mr Thorn said.

“We are determined to ensure Crown is not and never will be too big to fail. This will be an enduring legacy of the commission.

“The commission is satisfied the systemic failings of Crown are in the past.”

Crown was the subject of three separate inquiries in Victoria, NSW and Western Australia, which lifted the lid on activities that forced each state to put conditions on its casino licence. All three inquiries uncovered claims senior executives had ignored junket operators linked to organised crime and possible instances of money laundering.

US private equity giant Blackstone acquired Crown, once majority owned by billionaire James Packer, for $8.9 billion in June 2022.

The Victorian royal commission, headed by former Federal Court judge Ray Finkelstein QC, in 2021 found Crown’s conduct was “illegal, dishonest, unethical and exploitative” but did not call for the the government strip its casino licence. But the company was given two years to reform under the oversight of a special monitor before a final decision on its suitability to hold the licence was decided.

Stephen O’Bryan KC was appointed by the Victorian government as the special manager to oversee Crown Melbourne following the damning findings and over two years has been testing Crown’s reform program.

Ms Thorn said Mr O’Bryan’s final report concluded Crown Melbourne had remediated the failings exposed in the royal commission and established the critical foundations needed to achieve sustainable overall transformation in coming years.

“There was no evidence of maladministration or illegal or improper conduct indicative of the serious and systemic failures previously identified by the royal commission, and these failings had been addressed,” she said.

She added that Crown Melbourne had demonstrated to the satisfaction of both the commission and the special manager it had introduced extensive reforms to prevent or reduce gambling harm, financial crime and money laundering. It has also addressed systemic risk management failures and strengthened its integrity framework.

“During our investigations, we observed a different Crown Melbourne emerging with a clear understanding of the privilege and obligations of holding the Melbourne casino licence,” she said.

“Crown Melbourne must continue to seek to rebuild and earn public trust by demonstrating the good character, honesty and integrity that are necessary to remain a suitable casino operator,

“We put Crown on notice that this commission will not hesitate to act if the privilege of holding the casino licence is again abused.”

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