Thankfully, NSW did not turn a blind eye to these revelations. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews should be ashamed that it took a different state to investigate these crimes at Melbourne’s Crown Casino, and whether the company was fit to hold a gambling licence.
It isn’t really surprising the Victorian Government buried their heads in the sand on this. Crown is also known as the Vatican among many, including some Victoria Police members. The nickname comes from its seemingly untouchable status; the way it acts as an almost nation state within Victoria. And it doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s Labor or the Coalition in power.
Commissioner Bergin has more than roughed up Crown though – she has ensured Crown’s shady dealings have been exposed and effectively punished by recommending it be denied the NSW gambling licence it so desperately desires.
On one level, this is personal to me. Two decades ago I was sued for defamation by the then-body regulating Crown when I called them weak as a statutory body, specifically mentioning allegations of money laundering.
I thank Commissioner Bergin for offering some redemption and justification for me on that front.
Money laundering is not just about a tradie cleaning up a bit of money he made on a cash-in-hand job. Money laundering is a criminal act performed by drug dealers, child pornographers and even terrorists. In allowing money laundering to occur, governments are facilitating crime.
Crown casino surveillance footage presented in a 2019 court case in which a man was prosecuted for money laundering.
Machines that can be easily used to launder money are in every suburb and populated town of NSW, and I’m not talking about the local laundromat. Every club and every pub that has poker machines could be complicit in money laundering, whether they are conscious of this or not. It’s simply too easy to turn up to a venue, put $500 of dirty money into a machine, have a few spins and then cash out $480 of freshly laundered currency.
Just this morning we had a call from someone asking why all the fuss about money laundering at Crown when it happens every day in pubs and clubs around NSW. As a worker they said they regularly saw people coming in with shopping bags of cash to launder, just like what happened at Crown, but they were too worried about their job to speak up.
This is why NSW’s proposed cashless gambling card is so important. Commissioner Bergin mentioned the potential benefits of such a card in her report, calling it “a powerful mechanism to assist in combating money laundering”.
Having a card to use a poker machine that must have ID attached to it would effectively stop money laundering via poker machines overnight. It would also have the added benefit of reducing gambling harm by helping people monitor and manage their own spending.
Crown Casino in Melbourne.Credit:Scott McNaughton
I was also pleased to read that Commissioner Bergin recommended a truly independent, robust Casino Commission with the powers of a royal commission and the ability to overrule any deal a government makes. This gets to the root of the problem in NSW and around the country – the regulators have become too cosy with Crown. This change would also put Sydney’s Star Casino under a much-needed microscope.
I’m eagerly anticipating what will now happen with Crown’s operations in Melbourne and Perth.
The question is: if Crown is not fit to hold a licence in NSW, should it hold them in Victoria and Western Australia?
This is an especially important question in Victoria given the Bergin findings were based on how the casino operates in Melbourne. There is no question that Crown puts profits ahead of people, including their own staff, and should be held to account for this.
It’s time the privileged reign of the gambling industry in Australia ended and especially Crown’s VIP status.
Tim Costello is chief advocate for the Alliance for Gambling Reform. He is a former chief executive of World Vision Australia
Start your day informed
Our Morning Edition newsletter is a curated guide to the most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here.
Reverend Tim Costello is the chief advocate of the Alliance for Gambling Reform
Most Viewed in National