Crown to retain Melbourne licence

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Australia’s Crown Resorts should be allowed to retain its casino licence, despite “illegal, dishonest” conduct, concludes the Royal Commission.

The Victorian parliament in Melbourne has received the report of commissioner Ray Finkelstein who has concluded that Crown undoubtedly facilitated money laundering. Yet the company will be permitted to keep its licence under strict new conditions.

The report recommends the appointment of a special manager to oversee its operations for the next two years.

Finkelstein said in his report that there had been a “litany of failings” in the way that Crown had administered the laws on AML. It was all done through a bank account held by a subsidiary.

A recommendation that the state should considerably increase the maximum penalty for breaching casino rules from A$1m to A$10 has been accepted by the parliament but it plans to increase the maximum to A$100m.

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Finkelstein’s report stated that he had found evidence that the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation had attempted to investigate Crown but was hampered by a “deliberate lack of cooperation and candour on the part of Crown Melbourne and its senior executives.”

Despite its misconduct, however, Crown should retail its licence, said Finkelstein. He had come to this conclusion reluctantly through significant harm that may be imposed on the Victorian economy and innocent third parties if the licence was immediately cancelled. He felt that Crown has the will and capacity to reform itself.

But Finkelstein said that James Packer’s investment company, Consolidated Press Holdings, should be forced to recue its 37 per cent holding in Crown stock to less than five per cent by September 2024. This is because, stated the report, the company “abused its position as a dominant shareholder, which included retaining significant control over the affairs to the company, even after Packer resigned as chairman in 2018.”

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