Green light for royal commission into Crown Melbourne
The future of Melbourne’s Crown Casino hangs in the balance following the Victorian government confirming a highly anticipated royal commission into the gambling giant would go ahead, following damning allegations of illegal behaviour and questions as to whether it has the right to continue to hold its licence.
The $5 million Royal Commission into Crown Melbourne Ltd (Crown Melbourne) will examine the business’ suitability to hold its Victorian casino licence, as well as the suitability of its associates, including Crown Resorts Ltd, a statement from the Victorian government confirmed this week.
“This Royal Commission responds to the serious findings of the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) inquiry,” Premier Daniel Andrews said.
“Since receiving the ILGA report, the Government has taken advice about the most appropriate way to proceed in Victoria.
“Establishing a Royal Commission will ensure the most appropriate access to information regarding Crown Melbourne’s suitability to hold the casino licence given the Commission’s powers to compel witnesses and documentation.”
The findings he referenced come after the inquiry found the group was unfit to hold a casino licence in NSW, with Supreme Court Judge Patricia Bergin citing failures in “poor corporate governance, deficient risk management structures and processes and a poor corporate culture”.
The report, which was handed down earlier this month following an 18-month investigation, consequently led to the resignation of key Crown players, including key executive Ken Barton, and directors Andrew Demetriou, Michael Johnston and Guy Jalland. Director Harold Mitchell became the latest to announce his resignation, which followed shortly after the Andrews government announced the royal commission.
“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,” Mr Andrews said.
Raymond Finkelstein QC has been named as the commissioner and chairperson of the Royal Commission into Crown Melbourne Ltd (Crown Melbourne).
Throughout his notable career, Mr Finkelstein QC has served more than 40 years at the Victorian Bar and has been a Queen’s counsel since 1986.
Mr Finkelstein QC was appointed a judge of the Federal Court in 1997 and held other appointments as deputy president of the Copyright Tribunal of Australia and president of the Australian Competition Tribunal. He officially retired as a judge of the Federal Court and president of the Competition Tribunal in 2011 and has returned to private practice at the Victorian Bar.
Mr Finkelstein QC is due to hand down his recommendations by 1 August 2021. After this, the government will legislate to enable the Victorian Gaming and Liquor Regulation Commission (VCGLR) to give effect to any findings of the royal commission.
The 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 will continue to hold its licence while the royal commission takes place.