Gaming giant Crown wins right to operate – now spotlight turns to Star

Gaming giant Crown has changed its ways enough after a series of scandals to keep operating its Melbourne casino.

Mar 26, 2024, updated Mar 26, 2024

The Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission on Tuesday announced it was satisfied Crown is suitable to continue holding a casino licence.

A Victorian royal commission, headed by former Federal Court judge Ray Finkelstein QC, in 2021 found Crown’s conduct was “illegal, dishonest, unethical and exploitative” but stopped short of suggesting the government strip its casino licence.

Crown was instead given two years to reform under the oversight of a special monitor before the regulator decided whether the company was suitable to hold the licence.

“The commission considers the issues identified by the royal commission have been comprehensively addressed,” commission chair Fran Thorn told reporters.

Ms Thorn said Crown had created a Melbourne transformation plan that will form the commission’s ongoing oversight through a statutory declaration of the casino and its legal and social obligations.

“In return for the privilege of an exclusive licence Victorians have the right to expect the Crown Melbourne will never again prioritise profit ahead of the safety and wellbeing of its patrons and staff,” Ms Thorn told reporters.

“Crown must continue to seek to rebuild and earn public trust by demonstrating its good character, honesty and integrity.”

US private equity giant Blackstone acquired Crown for $8.9 billion in June 2022, ending billionaire James Packer’s control of the company.

Following separate inquiries in Victoria, NSW and Western Australia, Crown has been fined $700 million for breaches including wrongly claiming tax deductions and flouting responsible gambling laws.

The biggest fine came when Crown agreed to pay the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre $450m for failing to comply with anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws.

Crown employs more than 20,000 people nationwide, with about 11,500 workers based in Melbourne, making it Victoria’s largest single-site private employer.

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