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Royal commission damns Crown as ‘disgraceful’. But it still keeps its licence

Crikey logo Crikey 26/10/2021 Michael Bradley
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“Within a very short time, the commission discovered that for years Crown Melbourne had engaged in conduct that is, in a word, disgraceful.”

So begins the 652-page report of the royal commission into Crown’s fitness to hold its Melbourne casino licence, conducted by retired judge Ray Finkelstein QC.

He goes on: “This is a convenient shorthand for describing conduct that was variously illegal, dishonest, unethical and exploitative.”

And on: “alarming”, “callous”, “appalling”, “damning”, “distressing” appear in the executive summary, with observations such as “the board fell asleep at the wheel” and “many senior executives were indifferent to their ethical, moral and sometimes legal obligations”.

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It’s hardly surprising then that Finkelstein concluded: “It was inevitable that Crown Melbourne would be found unsuitable to hold its casino licence. No other finding was open.”

As Patricia Bergin had found in Sydney, Crown failed every single test of integrity, honesty, legal compliance and even the faintest shred of justification to continue holding the social licence that a casino operator surely requires. It has been exposed — again — as a criminal organisation, not a company.

Obviously, then, its casino licence for Crown Melbourne will be torn up and the doors closed, to save the public from any further exposure to the stinking cancer that Crown is.

Ha-ha-ha, no. Of course not. Crown will keep its casino licence, thank you very much. Having given that question very detailed consideration (as Finkelstein observed, it was really the only thing he had to think about, given how obvious Crown’s unfitness is), the commissioner decided that that was the best outcome.

Why? Two reasons: “The real risk of significant harm to the Victorian economy and innocent third parties” and “the royal commission’s belief that Crown Melbourne has the will and the capacity to reform itself”.

The casino will be given a special manager, a senior barrister, who will oversee Crown’s management for two years. They will have open access to everything and veto powers over the company’s board.

The government has promised other measures to rein in the future risk of finding ourselves here again.

Let history not discourage us from the evergreen hope and expectation that, one day, a casino will be run by people who are not criminals when they start or criminals when they finish.  Even when we know, thanks to two independent judicial investigations, that the company running our casinos is a criminal cartel, there is no reason to not believe that it will remake itself clean.

And now, having fixed Crown, we turn to that other shining star in the casino galaxy: Star.

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