Victoria Brings Forward its Crown Melbourne Review

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Photo by Lukas Blazek

The Victorian government has brought forward an investigation into Crown Casino, with the Melbourne venue at threat of losing its licence.

News.com.au reported that the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation will review the state’s largest single-site private sector employer following “concerning evidence” which came to light at an NSW inquiry into Crown Sydney.

It was revealed the NSW gambling regulator last month blocked the planned launch of the casino group’s new $2.2 billion Sydney gaming complex.

The Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority halted the opening after Crown made an 11th-hour submission to the Bergin inquiry – held this year to probe the suitability of Crown Resorts to hold a Sydney gaming licence – about criminals allegedly laundering cash through Crown in Melbourne and Perth.

A dedicated commissioner will be appointed to the VCGLR to hold the seventh Crown Casino review.

The state’s Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation Minister Melissa Horne said there was “a need for an immediate response” in Victoria following “concerning evidence” presented during the course of the NSW investigation.

“We’re making sure Crown Melbourne conducts its business in a transparent and appropriate manner,” she said.

“This review is needed given the evidence we’ve seen come out of the NSW inquiry.

“While we await the findings of that investigation, it’s appropriate to bring forward the next review to ensure Crown Melbourne is suitable to hold a licence in Victoria.”

The most recent investigation, the sixth Casino Review, occurred in 2018.

The ILGA inquiry will hand down its findings in February 2021.

Crown Sydney to open doors on December 28 but casino to remain shut

Crown Resorts will be able to open its Barangaroo hotel in Sydney before the new year, but the casino is to remain dormant.

The Guardian reported in mid-December that the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority granted an interim liquor licence, but gambling remains forbidden at the venue.

Non-gaming operations have been permitted at Crown’s new high-roller casino just weeks after the ILGA said it would wait until the findings of an inquiry into Crown’s suitability to hold a casino licence were handed down in February before making a decision on whether to approve a range of regulatory items related to the casino’s gaming activities.

ILGA chair Philip Crawford said last Wednesday that the authority was also considering two further liquor licences for other “non-gaming areas of the casino” which were due to be decided “within the week”.

“Last month, ILGA decided against approving a range of regulatory items related to the casino’s gaming activities prior to the release of the Bergin inquiry’s findings in February 2021,” Crawford said.

“At the time, ILGA agreed to work with Crown Resorts to enable opening this month of all non-gaming areas including accommodation, restaurants, bars and entertainment areas.”

Crawford said the authority’s position on Crown’s gaming operations had “not changed” and that the interim liquor licence would only apply until April 30, 2021.

“This will enable ILGA to consider any suitability concerns arising from the Bergin inquiry following the handing down of the report due early next year, before making a further decision regarding an extension to the licence,” he said.

In a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange after the ILGA decision, Crown said it was “finalising its pre-opening activities and expects to progressively commence non-gaming operations at Crown Sydney from December 28, 2020.”

William Brown

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