17 December, 2020
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The Alliance for Gambling Reform has welcomed the Victorian Government’s announcement of a new investigation into Crown Casino Melbourne, but has questioned why it has taken so long.
Alliance Chief Advocate, the Rev Tim Costello, said it was 18 months since The Age/60 Minutes reports about money laundering at Crown Melbourne, so this investigation was long overdue.
“Back in July 2019 we were calling for a Royal Commission into the whole gambling industry, not just into Crown, because we know how deeply entangled the gambling industry is with governments and connections to power,” Rev Costello said.
“Why has it taken 18 months to have a proper investigation into these serious allegations launched in Victoria? Why did it take NSW leading the way with its Bergin Inquiry? That was established just a few short weeks after the most recent money laundering scandal first aired. NSW was concerned about the Barangaroo Crown Casino more than a year ahead of its scheduled opening, yet Victoria was turning a blind eye to the Crown Casino that was so well established with its Melbourne operations?
“The gambling industry was the single largest donor in the last Victorian election by a country mile. That speaks volumes about its influence and what it hopes to buy with a million dollar ‘investment’.
“Then we had the racing industry operating as an ‘essential service’ throughout the Victorian COVID lockdown. There was even the laughable suggestion of racehorse owners being allowed to attend the Cox Plate while Victorians were still unable to see their families.
“The Bergin Inquiry has revealed some immensely shady dealings happening at Crown in Melbourne, which the casino’s operators hid until the last minute during that inquiry’s hearings. The fact Crown will be opening in Sydney without the casino in operation says much about its Melbourne business.”
Rev Costello said money laundering via the casino and pokies was a serious threat to the community given it often funded nefarious activities, including child pornography, terrorism and drug trafficking.
“There have been allegations made against Crown Casino involving organised crime dating back to a landmark Four Corners investigation in 2014,” he said. “It’s appalling that it has taken this long for some serious scrutiny to be applied to Crown Resorts in Victoria.
“This investigation is finally an opportunity for the new Gaming Minister, Melissa Horne, to ensure Crown is held to account and we wish her and the government well with these investigations.
“We hope that with the amount of scandalous dealings that we anticipate will be revealed through this inquiry that the next step will be a national Royal Commission into the gambling industry more broadly. We are certain that there will be much, much more to uncover once a light is shone.
“Too many families are hurt by gambling in this country. The $25 billion lost annually to gambling in Australia comes at much more than just a financial cost to people. Gambling costs lives -- not just in terms of deaths by suicide with connections to gambling, but in lives ruined by the gambling industry.
“You just have to talk to anyone who has been harmed by gambling to know what the fallout can be, from sleepless nights and anxiety through to family violence and thefts leading to jail time for people desperate to keep gambling.”
Gambling reform advocate Anna Bardsley joined Rev Costello’s calls for a Royal Commission into gambling, and welcomed this new Crown investigation.
“I lost too many years of my life to poker machines at Crown, and it has been nothing short of astonishing to read and hear about the stuff they have been allowed to get away with,” she said. “This investigation should have happened years ago and Crown needs to be held to account for its actions.”
Media contact: Rebecca Thorpe on 0491 209 436 or email@example.com