11 June, 2021
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The Alliance for Gambling Reform has welcomed the extension to the deadline for the Victorian Royal Commission into Crown Casino and a doubling of its budget, saying it is a key means of enabling Commissioner Ray Finkelstein to dive even deeper into the company’s exploitation of its customers and community.
Alliance Chief Advocate, the Rev Tim Costello, says that the gravity of the submissions and testimony to date justified the expansion of the Royal Commission.
“As the Victorian Government’s statement noted, “extending the timeframe of the Royal Commission will ensure the significant information provided regarding Crown Melbourne’s suitability to hold the casino licence is examined thoroughly and appropriately”. This is of critical importance,” he said.
“Some of the revelations to date have been nothing short of astounding, even to me as someone who has closely monitored this company for decades. The culture of this company is appalling.
“They’ve blatantly exploited people, actively facilitated gambling harm instead of reducing it, failed its patrons and the community, and now there are even allegations about them tax dodging. This is all on top of what was found at the Bergin Inquiry about money laundering. It’s extraordinary what has come out to date, and it is only right to extend the Royal Commission’s deadline to fully investigate all this.”
Rev Costello said he hoped Commissioner Finkelstein would be able to make recommendations to effectively reduce gambling harm across the state when the Royal Commission draws to a close.
“This is like a waterbed situation -- you push down on one area, being Crown, and the issues will just be shifted elsewhere to pubs and clubs,” he said. “It’s imperative that whatever comes out of this Royal Commission has an impact across the board.
“Gambling harm reduction measures such as cashless gambling and banning gambling-linked loyalty programs are important and should be introduced throughout Australia, not just in casinos.
“We’re pleased to see Crown finally supports the abolishment of ‘losses disguised as wins’ on poker machines, which are known to be predatory and addictive. They fought all the way to the Federal Court denying this feature was harmful. This is real vindication for that case.”
Gambling Reform Advocate Shonica Guy, who was party to the Crown court case, said she was over the moon to have Crown admit that losses disguised as wins are problematic.
“There are so many things that can be done to reduce gambling harm, which the industry actively avoids doing,” Ms Guy said. “It’s long past time that action was taken. We know that the industry deliberately design poker machines to be addictive. That’s immoral, and should be regulated against.
“I personally would have loved this Royal Commission to be into the whole gambling industry. The stuff coming out about Crown is just the tip of the iceberg.
“Our governments owe us a duty of care. They should regulate gambling with the aim of reducing harm to people, to the community, not on the basis of what the industry wants.”
The Alliance’s submission to the Royal Commission asserts that Crown Resorts has been so egregiously negligent in its operations and failed to meet community standards at its Melbourne casino to the point it is not fit to hold a casino licence.
The submission includes many recommendations to improve casino operation in Victoria, including tightened regulations, stricter oversight and significantly increased penalties for breaches.
Media contact: Rebecca Thorpe on 0491 209 436 or [email protected]
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