Report into Crown Melbourne to be kept confidential for now

by William Brown Last Updated
Report into Crown Melbourne to be kept confidential for now

The highly anticipated report into whether or not Crown Resorts is the suitable operator for Melbourne’s Crown Casino will remain confidential.

Casino.org reports that former federal judge Ray Finkelstein has provided his recommendation to the Victorian government, but his advice will remain confidential for the time being.

Earlier this year, a royal commission into the casino operator and licence of Crown Resorts was announced in response to a similar inquiry being carried out in New South Wales.

Patricia Bergin, a former federal judge, headed the NSW inquiry and determined that the casino group repeatedly failed to adhere to gaming regulations in Australia.

Accordingly, Crown’s newest venue in Sydney has been unable to open its casino.

Finkelstein recently presented his suitability report to the Victorian government that arrived after two months of review.

It included testimony from present and former Crown executives, as well as independent state-sponsored probes into the financial and operational dealings of Crown Melbourne.

“An incredible amount of work has gone into the royal commission and we thank Raymond Finkelstein for his report,” Victoria’s minister for consumer affairs, gaming and liquor regulation Melissa Horne said.

“We’ll consider the findings and recommendations from the royal commission in detail and take whatever action is necessary to strengthen casino oversight in Victoria and ensure this never happens again,” Horne added.

Public to me made aware of Crown royal commission findings by November

The government said it will likely issue its final determination by November 1.

The NSW inquiry determined that Crown Resorts was not suitable to receive a casino licence for its new $1.6 billion Crown Sydney.

Crown opened the complex as a non-gaming hotel and high-end residential high-rise last December.

Crown Resorts is working with NSW officials to satisfy the numerous concerns that arose during the review.

Many believe Finkelstein recommended to the Victorian government that Crown Resorts be found unsuitable in Melbourne too.

However, there’s popular opinion that the Victorian state will allow Crown Melbourne to continue operating its casino, but under strict supervision from the government.

“The expectation is that they will be deemed unfit,” a portfolio manager at Wilson Asset Management, which is an investor in the Aussie casino operator, John Ayoub said.

“The unknown is: what does that mean?”

Portfolio manager weighs on Crown options

Ayoub believes it means Victoria will work with Crown to resolve its many shortcomings. Those allegedly include allowing its casino cashiers to be used as money laundering machines by illicit criminal networks.

“There is a balance between jobs and tax revenues that the casinos do generate,” he said.

“Tourism is going to be a big way we get ourselves out of the state debt holes. It’s critical infrastructure.”

A full rescinding of Crown Melbourne’s casino licence would be a most devastating outcome for Crown Resorts.

The Victorian business is responsible for 65 per cent of Crown Resorts’ total revenue.

If Finkelstein and Victoria believe Crown Resorts is damaged beyond repair, the future of its Melbourne and Perth casinos and Sydney resort would be unclear.

Private equity giant Blackstone had expressed interest in acquiring Crown but its all cash bid of $6.5 billion was rejected by the Crown board.

Oaktree Capital, another private equity group, offered $2.4 billion for Crown founder James Packer’s 37 per cent stake in the organisation, an offer which they rescinded in August.

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