After damning inquiry report

Australia: Victorian parliament sets spending limits at Crown Melbourne in new gambling regulations

Crown Casino Melbourne.
Reading time 2:29 min

The Victorian parliament has passed new restrictions on Crown’s Melbourne casino, forcing customers to set limits on their time and losses. The property has until the end of next year to establish these limitations, which cleared the upper house a month after a bill was first introduced to parliament.

The changes in the Casino Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Implementation and Other Matters) Bill 2022 must be introduced at the casino by no later than December 2025 to allow for the development of technology that does not currently exist. 

It contemplates an AUD 1000 ($668) cash cap every 24 hours that must be implemented by the end of 2023 to tackle money laundering, and anyone who exceeds that limit will have to use casino-issued cards, reports The Age. The new restrictions follow a Royal Commission into Crown Melbourne’s suitability to hold a casino license in the Australian state, which delivered a scathing report in October last year.

After being found guilty of engaging in “illegal, dishonest, unethical and exploitative” behavior in its most recent inquiry, should Crown fail to prove a change in its culture, it will lose its Melbourne flagship casino license.  

A royal commission found “a catalog of wrongdoing” when reviewing Crown’s activities. Former Federal Court judge Ray Finkelstein said in his inquiry that “some were so callous that it is hard to imagine it could be engaged in by such a well-known corporation”, The Age further reported.  

Even though the judge found Crown unsuitable to hold a license in Melbourne, it gave the company two years to reform, as an immediate shutdown would have caused harm to the Victorian economy and to thousands of employees.

Crown's Sydney casino was also under review this year.

The Greens stated that the newly passed legislation is “an important first step." Its leader Samantha Ratnam pointed out that if the Victorian Labor government was serious about minimizing gambling harm, “it would introduce these limits everywhere, not just at Crown," which only accounts for 10% of Victoria’s poker machines.

On the counterpart, Premier Daniel Andrews said the government was supportive of requiring customers to make pre-gambling commitments on losses and times, despite declining to commit to doing so at a statewide level. 

“For some people, those machines are dangerous, and our focus has always been on them and trying to provide support, a regulatory framework for that small number of  Victorians for whom gambling is a very serious problem," he said, as reported by the cited source. 

He however clarified that “this is not to say that all gaming, all wagering, all gambling,  is an illegitimate form of recreational activity. That has never been my view. But you’ve got to get the balance right."

The royal commission, triggered by a series of reports by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald  and 60 Minutes in 2019, examined Crown’s treatment of problem gamblers, and how it knowingly broke laws and regulations, dodged Victorian taxes and refused to cooperate with the state’s gambling regulators.

The Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission in May punished Crown Resorts with a record AUD 80 million ($53.5 million) fine as a result of information that came to light at the royal commission, including its practice of accepting Chinese bank cards at the Melbourne casino to fund gambling and disguising the transactions as hotel expenses. The government also raised the maximum penalty for breaches last year from AUD 1 million to AUD 100 million ($66.9 million). 

Labor accepted all 33 recommendations handed down in the Finkelstein inquiry, 12 of which were dealt with under the new legislation. Entities would also be blocked from holding more than a 5% stake in the casino operator without the approval of the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission.

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