Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews says he’s ready to tear up Crown’s casino license if a royal commission recommends it.
His government on Monday announced a royal commission on the gambling giant’s ability to run its Southbank casino.
The inquiry, which will be chaired by former Federal Court Judge Raymond Finkelstein QC, is expected to cost taxpayers up to $ 7 million.
He will have until August 1 to report back to the government with recommendations.
It follows a court investigation in New South Wales, which concluded earlier this month that Crown was unable to run a casino at its new Barangaroo complex in Sydney.
Led by former Supreme Court Justice Patricia Bergin, the investigation found the company facilitated money laundering at its Melbourne and Perth casinos.
Further, he found that Crown had put its staff in China at risk of being detained and was dealing with junket operators whom it knew were involved in organized crime.
The WA government has announced its own investigation into the allegations.
When asked if he was prepared to terminate Crown’s casino license if the royal commission recommended it, Mr Andrews replied, “Yes.”
“This is a royal commission charged with determining whether they are qualified to hold this permit. So if you have this process, you have to be clear that you are going to implement the results, ”he said.
The prime minister defended the length of time it took for his government to follow through on the allegations, which were reported in the media as early as 2014.
“I’m not someone who looks back,” he says.
Mr Andrews said when the former Napthine government extended Crown’s license it included a clause requiring the state to pay more than $ 250 million if changes were made.
“We have to be careful to protect the interests of Victorian taxpayers,” he said.
“You are not going to make me stand here and apologize for putting in place the highest, most formal legal process to determine whether this company should have this license.”
The premier also pointed out that Crown is the state’s largest private sector employer.
“It’s more than a playroom, it’s an entire neighborhood,” he said.
“But it has to be run to the highest standards … that’s not the way the place has been operating for some time, by admissions.”
“Let’s do this process, get to the bottom of all these problems.”
Plans are also underway to create an independent casino regulator separate from the Victorian Commission for the Regulation of Gaming and Alcohol.
The Reverend Tim Costello of the Alliance for Gambling Reform says it’s embarrassing that it took a damning investigation in New South Wales to push the Victorian government into action.
“What this shows most of us in Melbourne is that we have lost confidence that our government can really regulate Crown, that the regulator can really regulate Crown,” he told TBEN News Breakfast.
Mr Costello said the state needed a “fully independent” regulator, saying the prime ministers of both political parties had “had a very gentle relationship with the Crown.”
Crown has undertaken to cooperate fully with the proceedings.
On Monday afternoon, Harold Mitchell became the last Director of the Crown to resign.
CEO Ken Barton and directors Andrew Demetriou, Guy Jalland and Michael Johnston resigned after the publication of the Bergin report.
The Victoria Greens have called on the government to suspend the Crown’s license while the royal commission is underway.
Their federal counterparts are calling for a national royal commission on the Crown and all other casino operators.
They want him to examine political influence, state regulators and the need for a national regulator.