The Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) has announced further disciplinary proceedings against Crown Melbourne in relation to its Responsible Services of Gambling obligations. The regulator has been provided additional powers to hold the casino operator to account, which have now come into effect, and could fine the business for up to AUD 100 million ($68 million).
The announcement comes amid regulatory changes in the Australian province of Victoria. A new liquor regulator, Liquor Control Victoria, has now officially been launched, effective July 1, set to work in tandem with the VGCCC, which will retain responsibility for gambling and casino oversight. The two regulatory bodies were previously unified under VCGLR (Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation), formerly in charge of regulating both Victoria's gambling and liquor industries.
All liquor licensing and oversight will transfer to Liquor Control Victoria from 1 July. To make things easier for licensees, all information and online forms will continue to be at https://t.co/07XvmORMhp https://t.co/2JWJMxOJSj pic.twitter.com/aHsVNmBDRv— Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (@VicGCCC) July 1, 2022
The Andrews Labor Government has also provided additional powers to the VGCCC to hold the casino operator accountable, including the capacity of gaining greater access to books and surveillance equipment at the casino.
Changes to the VGCCC also explicitly imply gambling harm minimization as part of the VGCCC’s core business and improve powers to take action against Crown Melbourne if it fails to abide by the gambling code of conduct, Shepparton News reports. The regulator is reopening an inquiry into Crown after recent revelations of a Royal Commission.
The new laws mean a single breach of the code is grounds for disciplinary action. Previously, the VGCCC could only initiate them after repeated breaches. Casino inspectors’ new powers and functions are also in response to recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Casino Operator and License.
"The Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and Licence found Crown committed multiple breaches in delivering its Responsible Gambling Code of Conduct, which included not adequately supervising or interacting with hundreds or possibly thousands of customers who exhibited signs of problem or risky gambling," the regulator stated in an official press release.
The VGCCC has requested information from Crown on its Responsible Service of Gambling obligations. Once that information has been considered, it can determine the appropriate disciplinary action to take. The potential actions in this second regulatory probe involve imposing a fine of up to AUD 100 million ($68 million), varying its license, and/or censuring the company.
VGCCC Chair Fran Thorn stated: “Crown’s responsible gambling obligations are a condition of the casino licence, designed to protect vulnerable patrons and to prevent gambling-related harm to patrons, their families and the community. There is no more important obligation."
VGCCC Chair Fran Thorn
"We heard many distressing stories at the Royal Commission of vulnerable patrons being encouraged to gamble beyond their means," Thorn noted. "The VGCCC will therefore be unflinching in its resolve to deal with the issues uncovered at the Royal Commission regarding Crown’s approach to responsible gambling, and to ensure the casino operator acts in line with its legal obligations.”
The VGCCC will make a further announcement once it has considered Crown’s response to the request for information issued Monday and determine the appropriate disciplinary action to take.
These proceedings follow the VGCCC’s recent disciplinary action to fine Crown AUD80 million ($54 million) for its illegal China Union Pay process, which was uncovered by the Royal Commission.
Crown was bought by Blackstone in June for AUD 8.9 billion ($6.2 billion), and its majority shareholder James Packer exited the company. Days before the takeover, Crown was approved to operate its Sydney casino