Crown Royal Commission Extended to October 15

Crown Resorts will now learn its fate on October 15 instead of August 1

The Victorian Government has stepped in and thrown a spanner in the works in regards to Crown Resorts‘ affairs. The Royal Commission has until October 15 to present its findings, an extension from August 1. Furthermore, the Commission’s budget weighs in at $19.75 million, $9.75 million more than the original sum.

Commissioner Ray Finkelstein requested a time extension and budget increase after receiving more damning evidence of how Crown operates.

Finkelstein heard last week the lack of responsible gaming measures deployed by Crown. The casino employs only 12 people to monitor potential problem gambling despite seeing up to 64,000 visitors per day. Crown proposed several changes to its policies, including limiting playing time on its pokies. However, it failed to produce the relevant documents when requested.

An additional scandal broke earlier this week in regards to underpaid casino taxes. Crown has more than 2,600 pokies at its Melbourne property and pays tax based on their gross gaming revenue. The underhand Crown added loyalty scheme points, plus free meals and accommodation to the machines’ costs, thus reducing the amount of tax due.

Such tactics are not allowed, which means the Crown underpaid the Victorian Government at least $167 million since 2014. The accurate figure is closer to $200 million.

Finkelstein has until October 15 to uncover any other shady dealings.

Victorian Government Extends Royal Commission to October 15

The Victorian Government issued a statement revealing the reason behind the October 15 extension.

“The Victorian Government has granted a request from the Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and Licence to allow additional time and funding to complete its work.

Commissioner Raymond Finkelstein wrote to the Acting Premier to request an extension to October 15 and increase the Commission’s funding from $10 million to $19.75 million.

Due to the seriousness of evidence produced through hearings and submissions to date, Commissioner Finkelstein is now investigating a more comprehensive range of matters.

These relate to the corporate culture of Crown Melbourne, gambling harm minimisation, and claims brought forward in evidence so far – including allegations Crown Melbourne underpaid casino tax.

An extension is exactly what the Royal Commission needs. It is sifting through reams of paperwork, and interviewing dozens of people, and that takes time. Crown’s suitability to hold a Victorian casino licence stems from this investigation. Being thorough is not only fair but vital.

It will also allow time to prepare and examine the requested documents and for the Commission to undertake sufficient consultation with relevant and interested parties.

The Victorian Government established the Royal Commission in February to ensure that those who hold a casino licence in Victoria uphold the highest standards of probity and integrity. The original timeframe to complete this was August 1, as agreed by the Commissioner.

The Government is ensuring the Royal Commission has the resources and time required to examine the evidence and determine if Crown is fit to hold a Victorian casino licence.”

Crown Executive Chairman Responds

Underfire Crown Executive Chairman, Helen Coonan, responded to the Victorian Government’s statement.

“As Executive Chairman, I have made clear that any shortcomings identified by the Royal Commission will be addressed. The Board and I are committed to making Crown a stronger, more transparent and respected company.

“We have initiated a sweeping program of significant reforms, enhancements and personnel changes. We cannot change the past, but we can be absolutely steadfast in the approach we take to driving the culture and transparency of the company into the future.”

Everything smacks of Crown executives saying what they think the Royal Commission wants to hear. It is excellent they are changing, but they should not have to change. Why? Because they should not be running a business this way—especially not a company where there is potential for harm.

Crown looks sure to lose its casino licence on October 15, although its share price does not reflect this. Crown’s shares have hardly moved recently, but takeover and merger taking are buoying the price.

Starting afresh is the only way we see the Victorian Government allowing Crown to continue. A raft of recommendation will follow if Crown does keep its licences. Expect these to include removing the removal of the current board, and more. This leads to Star Entertainment finding itself in pole position to take over the stricken gambling giant. They know how to run a casino and have not fallen foul of rules and regulations. We only have until October 15 to wait to discover Crown’s fate.