Crown Resorts License for Flagship Melbourne Casino Should Be Canceled, Says Inquiry Lead Lawyer

Posted on: July 20, 2021, 10:31h. 

Last updated on: July 20, 2021, 02:32h.

Crown Resorts should lose its license to operate gambling at its flagship Melbourne casino resort, according to lawyers assisting a suitability investigation in the Australian state of Victoria.

Crown Resorts
In jeopardy: Crown Resort’s license for its flagship casino resort in Melbourne. The exterior of the Crown Resort pictured above. (Image: The Australian)

In a damning closing submission on Tuesday morning, Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission Adrian Finanzio said the company should be found unsuitable for licensing. That’s because of its persistent failure to combat money laundering and insufficient efforts to reform its corporate culture.

Crown embarked on a series of reforms after losing its New South Wales license earlier this year following a similar investigation in Sydney.

That investigation found that Crown had willfully ignored the criminal infiltration of its VIP segment. It also allowed retired founder and major shareholder James Packer to hold an inappropriate level of control over the company. It also accused Crown of being reckless with the safety of staff. Some of that staff were jailed in China for violating the country’s gambling laws.

Suspension and Supervision

But Finanzio expressed concern that the company may be incapable of implementing reforms without assistance from the state government. He also said he has “little confidence” in Helen Coonan, the former federal government communications minister turned Crown executive, who is overseeing the rehabilitation of Crown’s reputation.

Coonan has been on the Crown board since 2011, and therefore must have contributed to the company’s poor corporate culture, Finanzio said.

If the commission takes the view that it’s open and preferable to find that Crown should have the opportunity to implement reforms, it would be open for the commission to find that either a period of suspension and supervision [are required],” he added.

“Or alternatively, the commission might consider the appointment of a monitor, or making recommendations about the appointment of a monitor, similar to that which is contemplated in NSW.”

Crown Tax Dodge Alleged

Crown is also on the hook for $480 million after it was found to have underpaid state taxes. The Victorian government collects tax contributions based on gross gaming revenue, which is the amount of money gambled at the casino minus the amount paid back in winnings.

But the commission heard Crown incorrectly included promotions and bonuses paid to gamblers when calculating its liabilities.

Finanzio said his request to find Crown unsuitable was “not a submission made lightly.”

It is made cognizant of the consequences that such a finding would, in all likelihood, be highly disruptive to many people,” he said. “The Crown complex has been part of the fabric of the city for many years, and is the largest single site employer in the state. It has 12,500 employees, maybe more.”

Finanzio’s recommendation will be considered by Ray Finkelstein, the former federal judge, who will ultimately decide the casino giant’s fate in Victoria. Lawyers representing Crown will make their closing submission on Wednesday.