MELBOURNE, AAP – Its behaviour was “illegal, dishonest, unethical and exploitative”, but gaming group Crown will keep its Melbourne casino licence.
The final report of a royal commission into Crown Resorts, headed by former Federal Court judge Ray Finkelstein QC, was tabled in state parliament on Tuesday.
“Within a very short time, the commission discovered that for many years Crown Melbourne had engaged in conduct that is, in a word, disgraceful,” the report says.
“This is a convenient shorthand for describing conduct that was variously illegal, dishonest, unethical and exploitative.”
However, the commission did not recommend Crown immediately lose its Melbourne licence.
Instead, it was recommended Crown continue operating under the oversight of a Special Manager for two years while it undertakes comprehensive reforms.
The Victorian government has accepted all 33 of the report recommendations, but will put in legislation the ability to cancel Crown’s licence if, after two years, it has not satisfied regulators that it has improved.
Nine of the recommendations are going to be addressed by legislation immediately, Gaming Minister Melissa Horne said on Tuesday.
“The Royal Commission’s finings include grave systemic breaches of the law. Tax breaches, bullying, misleading and delaying the regulator, and systemic breaches of responsible gaming obligations, which put vulnerable Victorians at risk,” Ms Horne told reporters.
Stephen O’Bryan QC, the first commissioner for the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission, has been appointed the special manager over Crown.
In a statement to the ASX, Crown said it was reviewing the report and the Victorian government’s response.
“Crown will work cooperatively and constructively with the Victorian Government in relation to the findings and recommendations of the Report and their response,” it said.
Mr Finkelstein handed in his report on October 15, with the government taking two weeks to consider the findings and recommendations before releasing it.
In his report overview, Mr Finkelstein was damning against the casino.
“The catalogue of wrongdoing is alarming, all the more so because it was engaged in by a regulated entity whose privilege to hold a casino licence is dependent upon it being, at all times, a person of good character, honesty and integrity,” it reads.
“It is difficult to grade the seriousness of the misconduct. Some was so callous that it is hard to imagine it could be engaged in by such a well-known corporation whose Melbourne Casino Complex is visited by millions annually.”
The royal commission’s lead lawyer Adrian Finanzio SC had told the inquiry Crown was not suitable to hold a licence and cast doubt on the company’s ability to properly reform its culture.
He called for Crown group chair Helen Coonan and Crown Melbourne chief Xavier Walsh to resign, which they did.
The royal commission also heard the casino underpaid up to $272 million in Victorian gaming taxes for three years, but did nothing about it until the inquiry was announced. It has since agreed to repay $50 million.
Crown lawyer Michael Borsky QC had argued Crown was too big and integral to the state’s economy to be stripped of its licence.
Mr Borsky admitted fault on behalf of Crown for the extensive failures revealed during the Victorian inquiry, as well as an earlier NSW inquiry.
The NSW inquiry found Crown facilitated money laundering, partnered with junket operators with links to organised crime groups even after being made aware of these connections, and exposed staff to the risk of detention in China.
The Andrews government has established a new Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission, following a separate review into the current gambling and liquor watchdog, which will have oversight of all gaming in the state.