Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says he’s prepared to rip up Crown’s casino licence if recommended by a royal commission.
His government on Monday announced a royal commission into the gaming giant’s suitability to run its Southbank casino.
The inquiry, to be chaired by former Federal Court judge Raymond Finkelstein QC, is expected to cost taxpayers up to $7 million.
He will have until August 1 to report back to the government with recommendations.
It follows a judicial inquiry in NSW, which earlier this month found Crown was unfit to run a casino at its newly built Barangaroo complex in Sydney.
Headed by former Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin, the inquiry found the company facilitated money laundering at its Melbourne and Perth casinos.
Additionally, it found Crown put its staff in China in danger of being detained and dealt with junket operators it knew were involved in organised crime.
The WA government has announced its own probe into the allegations.
Asked if he was prepared to end Crown’s casino licence if recommended by the royal commission, Mr Andrews replied: “Yes.”
“This is a royal commission to determine whether they’re fit to hold that licence. So if you’re having that process, you have to be clear that you’ll implement the findings,” he said.
The premier defended the time it took for his government to act on the allegations, which have been reported in the media as early as 2014.
“I’m not someone who looks backwards,” he said.
Mr Andrews said when the former Napthine government extended Crown’s licence, they included a clause that required the state to pay more than $250 million if alterations were made.
“We have to be careful to make sure we protect Victorian taxpayers’ interests,” he said.
“You’re not going to get me standing here and apologising for having put the highest and most formal legal process in place to determine whether that business should have that licence.”
The premier also noted Crown was the largest private-sector employer in the state.
“It’s more than just a gaming floor, it’s an entire precinct,” he said.
“But it has to be run to the highest of standards … that’s not the way the place has been operating for a period of time, by admissions made.
“Let’s have this process, let’s get to the bottom of all of those issues.”
Plans are also under way to establish an independent casino regulator, separate from the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation.
Reverend Tim Costello from the Alliance for Gambling Reform says it’s embarrassing it took a damning inquiry in NSW to spur the Victorian government to action.
“What it shows most of us in Melbourne is that we’ve lost trust that our government can really regulate Crown, that the regulator can really regulate Crown,” he told ABC News Breakfast.
Mr Costello said the state needed an “utterly independent” regulator, claiming state premiers from both political parties have had “very cosy relationships with Crown”.
Crown has pledged to fully co-operate with proceedings.
On Monday afternoon, Harold Mitchell became the latest Crown director to resign.
CEO Ken Barton and directors Andrew Demetriou, Guy Jalland and Michael Johnston have resigned following the release of the Bergin report.
The Victorian Greens have called for the government to suspend Crown’s licence while the royal commission is under way.
Their federal counterparts are calling for a national royal commission into Crown and all other casino operators.
They want it to look at political influence, state regulators, and the need for a national regulator.