Push for inquiry into Crown’s Melbourne casino
James Packer's Crown Resorts is facing the prospect of powerful judicial inquiry into whether it should be able to operate its Melbourne casino following the damning findings of a New South Wales probe.
Calls for a more rigorous interrogation of Crown's Melbourne facility follow a New South Wales government inquiry concluding the gaming giant was not a "suitable person" to operate a casino in its new $2.2 billion tower at Barangaroo in Sydney.
The final report from former Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin said Crown suffered "corporate arrogance" and needed to make sweeping changes if it was to be considered an appropriate casino licence holder.
Such changes include forcing Mr Packer to sell down his 36.7 per cent stake in Crown - unless he receives approval to maintain the stake from a proposed new, more powerful casino regulatory body - and the resignation of the company's chief executive.
Crown board member and former AFL boss Andrew Demetriou and Packer nominee director Michael Johnston should also stand down from the Crown board, the NSW report said.
The findings represent a heavy business and personal blow to Mr Packer, who had conceptualised the Barangaroo casino as a capstone achievement for his company and the realisation of a decades-long ambition.
The blow comes as the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation prepares to probe whether Crown Resorts is suitable to operate its Southbank complex.
The state opposition on Tuesday said the findings of the Bergin inquiry had "enormous ramifications" for Crown's Melbourne casino and should be of concern to every Victorian.
It called on the state government to establish an independent judicial inquiry to examine whether Crown should be stripped of its Melbourne casino licence, saying the local regulator was not up to the task.
"A thorough investigation into Crown's Melbourne licence must now be undertaken - not the tick and flick approval process undertaken by the regulator," opposition spokeswoman for gaming and liquor Steph Ryan said. "In contrast with NSW, (Victorian Premier) Daniel Andrews has refused to undertake any kind of investigation into Crown and our regulator has become a lapdog instead of a watchdog," she said
Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam said Crown "should be stripped of its Victorian licence immediately".
Daniel Andrews said the government in December brought forward its regular five-year review of Crown's Melbourne licence by two years. Speaking ahead of the release of the Bergin inquiry, the Premier said the government would review its findings.
"We'll look at the report when that's handed down," he said on Tuesday.
The Bergin inquiry was launched after media reports alleged Crown turned a blind eye to money laundering and ignored risks posed to staff in China who were later arrested for breaching local gambling promotion laws.
The final report, tabled in the NSW parliament on Tuesday, said Crown chief executive Ken Barton had maintained a "totally inexplicable" approach towards money-laundering risks.
It also said Mr Demetriou had delivered a "bizarre performance" during his testimony.
Originally published as Push for inquiry into Crown's Melbourne casino