Victoria royal commission set to hand over final report on Crown Resorts

Crown Resorts Melbourne, Victoria
Image: TK Kurikawa/Shutterstock

The Victoria state government has confirmed that the royal commission into Crown Resorts’ casino operator licence will hand over its final report tomorrow (Friday 15 October).

This concludes months of public hearings examining whether Crown Melbourne is suitable to hold a casino licence within the state, including the allocation of additional time and funding to investigate “a wider range of matters”.

Among them were those relating to the corporate culture of Crown Melbourne, gambling harm minimisation, and allegations that the venue underpaid casino tax. 

It was said that the extension, from August 1, 2021, to October 15, 2021, as well as an increase in funding from $10m to $19.75m, was done in a bid to ensure that the significant information provided regarding the facility’s suitability to hold the casino licence was examined thoroughly and appropriately. 

The approach is said to have been “similar to that taken by the NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority to the final report of the Bergin Inquiry earlier this year.” 

The Victorian government, which asserts a dedication to overhauling the regulation of gambling in the region, is expected to release the final report, as well as its own response, prior to the end of this month.

Work is also underway to set up the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission, which will include a dedicated casino regulation division focused solely on oversight of the venue. 

Melissa Horne, minister for consumer affairs, gaming and liquor regulation, commented: “An incredible amount of work has gone into the royal commission into the casino operator licence and we thank Raymond Finkelstein for his report. 

“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.”

The launch of a royal commission came after a scathing report in New South Wales, commissioned by the ILGA and led by former supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin, found that the company isn’t fit to operate the $2.2bn Crown Sydney Hotel Resort.

The almost 800-page critique of Crown’s suitability, which itself followed allegations raised by Australia’s Nine Network, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and other media outlets, alleged that Crown, or its agents, affiliates or subsidiaries, engaged in money-laundering; breached gambling laws; and partnered with junket operators with links to drug traffickers, money launderers, human traffickers, and organised crime groups. 

A short time after Victoria initiated its investigation, Western Australia upgraded its own inquiry to a royal commission, which it said will also look at the state’s regulatory framework, including any actual or perceived conflicts of interest by officers involved in casino regulation, and any matters that might enhance the Gaming and Wagering Commission’s future capability and effectiveness.