Crown Royal Fee "missed alternative" to determine gambling legal guidelines, watchdog

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Opposition spokeswoman Steph Ryan said the Bergin investigation into NSW – confirmed The Age and 60 Minutes reports that criminal gangs infiltrated Crown Melbourne and laundered dirty money – showed the VCGLR was not up to the job.

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She said the mandate should be broadened to investigate the agencies charged with keeping Crown in check.

"I would ask if the Royal Commission would be able to get to the bottom of the matter if they couldn't assess the regulator's failure," Ms Ryan said.

The mandate of the investigation does not instruct Mr. Finkelstein to deal specifically with the state gambling laws or the VCGLR, but rather enables him to examine whether they need to be changed in order to “address your results and implement your recommendations”.

Victorian Gaming Secretary Melissa Horne said Monday the state would establish an independent casino regulator as well as a government-led investigation into the effectiveness of the VCGLR. The government has not said who will conduct the investigation.

Charles Livingstone, an expert in gambling regulation and an academic at Monash University, said the exclusion of gambling regulation from the royal commission was a missed opportunity to ensure the failures at Crown did not recur.

"Crown had this terrible record of wrongdoing exposed by the media rather than the regulator because they just don't have the power, they don't have the legislation, and they don't have the resources to do something right job," he said. "If you don't look at the framework in which this has happened, dealing with a perpetrator is a waste of time."

Tony Mohr, executive director of the Alliance for Gambling Reform, said the royal commission would be far more powerful if Finkelstein's mandate included scrutinizing the state's laws and regulators.

"Otherwise we will get results that are not much different from previous reviews and inquiries," he said.

Dr. Livingstone said wider investigation should also look into Victoria's responsible gambling laws after Crown scandals, including the distribution of "plastic picks" to manipulate poker machines.

In addition to examining the Crown license, the NSW investigation carefully examined the gambling regulations of that state and recommended that an independent, stand-alone casino regulator be established with the powers of a permanent royal commission to collect “relevant information on all aspects of the casinos and licensees that operate it regulated ".

The VCGLR, in its 2020 annual report, confirmed its limited ability to compel Crown to provide information for its investigation into the 2016 arrest of Crown employees in China. According to the report, the VCGLR only had access to "a large amount of material [Crown"] had previously refused to arrange its investigation last year after the casino waived its right to statutory privileges prior to the ILGA investigation .

Victorian taxpayers will pay a $ 5-7 million bill for the Royal Crown Commission. The NSW Gambling Authority confirmed Tuesday that it would try to reclaim millions of dollars from Crown for the cost of performing its 18-month probabilistic investigation under the terms of state gambling laws.

"[ILGA] will try to obtain a reasonable reimbursement in relation to the cost of the investigation," said a spokesman.

Economic reporter for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.

Paul is a Victorian political reporter for The Age.

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