23 February, 2021
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The long-awaited Crown Royal Commission represents the best chance of real gambling reform in Victoria in decades, according to the Alliance for Gambling Reform.
The fulsome investigation powers of a Royal Commission are essential to get to the bottom of not only money laundering and other criminal behaviour at Crown, but also the connections to power that have seen the casino operating as essentially a law unto themselves, Rev Tim Costello said.
Rev Costello, the Chief Advocate for the Alliance, has been calling for a Royal Commission into Crown for decades, most recently when the money laundering allegations were revealed in July 2019.
“I am overjoyed that this Royal Commission has finally been called so that the people of Victoria can finally have the opportunity to understand how that casino is run and the power that the company wields in Victoria across both major sides of politics,” he said.
“It’s not just the concerning political donations and influence that cause issues, it’s the perception that Crown is‘ too big to fail’. That’s dangerous for our democracy and our community.
“We can’t forget the human costs of Crown too -- the people who are harmed by the predatory behaviour of the company towards gamblers, the thousands of designed-to-addict poker machines in operation there. This Royal Commission has a lot to look into.”
Rev Costello said the revelations through NSW’s Bergin inquiry made a Victorian Royal Commission into Crown an imperative.
“All of the appallingly shady, and some frankly criminal, operations revealed through Commissioner Bergin’s inquiry could not be ignored -- they happened in Melbourne, not in Sydney!
“Crown is not too big to regulate, despite perceptions to the contrary. What a disgrace Crown Casino’s operations in Victoria have been, and a disgrace that they’ve been free to behave like this for so long.
“It’s inexplicable that there have been no prosecutions to date surrounding the money laundering so blatantly occurring at Crown, captured clearly on video and seen by so many of us. That video came out more than 18 months ago, so this Royal Commission is long overdue. Minister of the Crown in Victoria has had multiple meanings for decades, and this simply must end.”
Rev Costello said the Victorian Government must commit to adopting recommendations from the Royal Commission for there to be any consequence from the investigation.
“There is no point getting Royal Commission recommendations and then ignoring them,” he said.
"It’s important to get this right. Money laundering is not just happening at Crown. It’s widely acknowledged that poker machines are ideal for money laundering, and they are littered throughout Victoria, cleaning money from criminal activities such as human trafficking, drugs and terrorism.”
Anna Bardsley, a gambling reform advocate who gambled on Crown’s poker machines before her recovery, said she wished the Royal Commission was into the whole gambling industry.
“Every day around Victoria people are being harmed by the gambling industry, and successive Victorian governments have been complicit in this,” Ms Bardsley said. “The fact that Daniel Andrews has to talk about this Royal Commission needing to be handled carefully due to compensation clauses in Crown’s contracts is disturbing. How did we get here? It’s plain wrong.
“I’d like to see a full Royal Commission into the gambling industry to really explore how this industry exploits people, harms people, destroys families, takes from our communities. Enough is enough.”
Media contact: Rebecca Thorpe on 0491 209 436 or [email protected]
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