Crown’s “special manager” would be hard to implement

By Mia Chapman Updated
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One of the proposals to come out of the findings from Victoria’s royal commission into Crown Melbourne was to install a special manager to make sure the casino cleans up its act after years of misconduct.

The Guardian reports that experts say the appointment of a special manager will be difficult to implement though.

While commissioner Ray Finkelstein’s recommendations to tackle problem gambling have been welcomed, governance and gaming experts have questioned the plan to appoint QC Stephen O’Bryan to oversee the casino, rather than strip the company of its licence.

And experts say a 2012 deal under which the Victorian government agreed to pay Crown up to $200 million if it removed the company’s casino licence or imposed conditions on it must be scrapped before the majority of Finkelstein’s recommendations can be brought into force.

In his report, tabled in Victorian parliament last Tuesday, Finkelstein said the agreement violated a long-held principle that no one should be entitled to recover damages caused by their own wrongful conduct.

Finkelstein found Crown was not a suitable operator of the Melbourne casino, saying it had facilitated money laundering, failed to stop addicts from gambling excessively and underpaid state gambling taxes.

Junket operators who brought high rollers to the Melbourne casino were also linked with organised crime, he said.

Problem gambling tackled by Victorian’s royal commission

In New South Wales, Crown will not be given a licence to enable it to open its high roller casino in the $1.7 billion Barangaroo tower in Sydney until it has satisfied an expert appointed by the state regulator that it has reformed itself, NSW estimates have been told.

However, Finkelstein said Crown should be allowed to continue operating the Melbourne casino because it had a willingness to reform itself and because closing its doors while a new licensee was found would be economically damaging to Victoria.

The outcome showed that Crown was probably too big to fail, according to Charles Livingstone, a public health expert and gambling researcher at Monash University.

“If you were in any other business and you’ve done this, you would expect to lose whatever rights you had conferred on you by the status as a consequence of that poor action,” he said.

Livingstone welcomed Finkelstein’s proposed crackdown on poker machine gambling, which he said could reduce revenue from the main gaming floor by as much as 20 per cent.

Livingstone said Crown already had the technology to eliminate cash in poker machines, limit the time gamblers can spend at a machine and enforce breaks, as recommended by Finkelstein.

“It is completely feasible and it wouldn’t even cost that much given the software and hardware to do it is already in place,” he said.

Former gaming minister has his say on Crown Melbourne

Tony Robinson, who was Victoria’s minister for gaming in John Brumby’s Labor government between 2007 and 2010, predicted it would be tricky to get the laws needed to fully realise Finkelstein’s vision through a parliament where Labor lacks control of the upper house.

He said he thought Finkelstein had done a “really good job”, especially on tackling problem gambling, an area that was not considered in a NSW inquiry that reported in February, prompting Victoria’s royal commission.

“He cut through on the problem gambling front and simply came out and said this is what you have to do…you have to have mandatory breaks, time limits, limits on cash.

“That seems to me, will become the new standard of gaming across Australia.”

Robinson said he didn’t know if the special manager regime would work because it had never been tried before.

“My thinking is it will slow down the decision making, probably at the time when they need to speed it up.”

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