Victoria Passes Casino And Gambling Bill Per Royal Commission

The fallout from the Crown Resorts scandal has continued for several years and across several states. Victoria is the latest to complete an investigation, accept a Royal Commission report, and implement recommendations to prevent another such scandal. Essentially, the new bill strengthens current laws and improves oversight and regulation pertaining to gambling operators.

Royal Commission Report

It was 652 pages long. The Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and License Report (Volumes 1-3) went public in October 2021. Commissioner Ray Finkelstein submitted the report to Victoria Governor Linda Dessau on 15 October. It contained the final commissioned report and recommendations.

It started with an explanation of the Commission, established to address the Bergin Report. That intensive report showed that Crown Melbourne facilitated millions of dollars laundered through a subsidiary’s bank account and allowed operators with links to organized crime to set up junket players to gamble at the casino.

“The Commission discovered that for many years Crown Melbourne had engaged in conduct that is, in a word, disgraceful. This is a convenient shorthand for describing conduct that was variously illegal, dishonest, unethical and exploitative.”

The report summarized that Crown Melbourne should not keep its casino license under the Casino Control Act. The company contravened the law in several ways, as well as the Casino Management Agreement Act.

Numerous Commission Recommendations

Despite the view that Crown isn’t suitable to hold its license, in the interest of rectifying the problem, Finkelstein recommended that the Victorian government amend the Casino Control Act as follows:

  • Create a new position of Special Manager to oversee and govern casino operators’ affairs for those found to be unsuitable.
  • Crown Melbourne Special Manager should oversee its affairs for two years.
  • After two years, the regulator will determine if Crown Melbourne became suitable to hold its casino license and if it is in the public interest for it to keep it.
  • Require the CPH (Consolidated Press Holdings Pty Ltd) group to reduce its shares from 37% to less than 5%.
  • Prevent James Packer and the CPH group from becoming associates of Crown Melbourne after their commitments to the NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority expire.
  • Ban junkets.
  • Expand the offenses applicable to the casino operator and increase penalties for non-compliance with gambling legislation.

The report noted that Crown Melbourne had committed to implementing significant reforms “led by people of good will and skill” and “at great financial cost.” If it succeeds, Victoria will benefit.

Of the aforementioned recommendations, the report detailed them. The regulator needs more power, such as the ability to require any person under examination to answer questions under oath. The casino operator would need to pay for qualified experts in suitability, ones approved by the regulator, to inquire about any matter necessary to perform its functions.

The Special Manager, as mentioned above, would have broad control in its oversight of the casino operator. That manager may be a body corporate or unincorporate but it must nominate at least one person to carry out its functions. That person will assume all of the rights and powers of a casino operator’s director with the exception of voting rights. But that person will be able to direct the board to take a particular action or refrain from doing so. Further, the person will be able to attend all meetings, inspect all books and records, and request even confidential and privileged information from company executives.

There is much more detail in the report, but this gives an idea of the size and scope of the recommendations.

Response in a Bill

The Victorian government quickly drafted and proposed the Casino and Gambling Legislation Amendment Bill 2021. The Honorable Melissa Horne introduced it to the Assembly before the end of October.

Broadly, the goal of the bill is to amend the following laws:

  • Casino Control Act 1991
  • Casino (Management Agreement) Act 1993
  • Gambling Regulation Act 2003
  • Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation Act 2011

At the very latest, the bill will take effect on 1 July 2022. However, it may be earlier based on a proclamation.

The bill’s quick movement through the proper government protocols was rather quick. From the first Assembly reading on 25 October, the bill passed its third reading by an absolute majority on 17 November. The Honourable Shaun Leane took it from there into the Legislative Council. It passed there by an absolute majority on its third reading on 1 December.

Crown Resorts has little choice but to accept the legislation and agree to its components. Its Crown Melbourne license rides on following the new protocols and proving that it can become a trusted entity.

Rose Varrelli avatar
Rose Varrelli
Senior Casino & News Writer

Hi there! I’m Rose, and with nine years behind me in the iGaming industry, I craft engaging narratives at CasinoAus. My education in Communication across Europe has sharpened my skills in fintech, casino legislation, and digital marketing. Backed by a strong foundation in SEO, storytelling, and cross-cultural communication, I’m passionate about creating content that resonates globally and educates our audience.

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