Crown's fate in Victoria rests on report

The final report into whether gambling giant Crown should keep its Victorian licence has been handed to the state government, but it will not make it public straight away.

Former Federal Court judge Ray Finkelstein QC has spent months examining whether the James Packer-backed casino is fit to operate after a NSW inquiry found Crown unsuitable to run its newly-built casino at Sydney’s Barangaroo.

That inquiry found Crown facilitated money laundering, partnered with junket operators with links to organised crime groups even after being made aware of these connections, and exposed staff to the risk of detention in China.

Mr Finkelstein on Friday handed over his report to the Victorian Governor Linda Dessau AC.

But Gaming Minister Melissa Horne said the government will take until the end of October to consider it.

“We’ll consider the findings and recommendations from the Royal Commission in detail and take whatever action is necessary to strengthen casino (click the next page) oversight in Victoria and ensure this never happens again,” she said in a statement.

Deputy Nationals leader and Shadow Gaming Minister Steph Ryan called for the Victorian Government to immediately release Commissioner Finkelstein’s findings.

“This really is a Royal Commission that Daniel Andrews never wanted to have and they’re now seeking to kick the can down the road,” Ms Ryan told reporters on Friday.

“They should just face the music, release the report and let Victorians actually see what the findings of the Royal Commission are and what recommendations it’s making.”

The Alliance for Gambling Reform’s chief advocate, Reverend Tim Costello, urged the Victorian Government to accept all of Commissioner Finkelstein’s findings as well as introducing stronger regulations on the broader gambling industry.

“The stories of the harm caused by the gambling industry that came to light in the commission speak for themselves; we simply cannot afford to wait in tackling this crisis,” Reverend Costello said in a statement.

The inquiry had heard the casino underpaid millions in Victorian gaming taxes for three years but did nothing about it until the royal commission was announced.

Heads have already rolled at Crown because of the inquiry.Melbourne chief executive Xavier Walsh stepped down in August and will leave the company in December, and former Howard government minister Helen Coonan left as company chair.

A new Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission was announced in August and will have oversight of all gaming in the state and follows a separate review into the current watchdog, which monitors gambling and liquor.

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