Fortunately, NSW didn’t ignore these revelations. Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews should be ashamed that it took another state to investigate these crimes at Melbourne’s Crown Casino, and whether the company was able to hold a gambling license.
Unsurprisingly, the Victorian government buried their heads in the sand on it. Crown is also known as the Vatican to many, including some members of the Victoria Police. The nickname comes from its seemingly inviolable status; the way it acts as an almost nation-state in Victoria. And it doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s Labor or the coalition in power.
However, Commissioner Bergin more than roughed up Crown – she made sure that Crown’s seedy dealings were exposed and effectively punished by recommending that they deny him the NSW gambling license she so desperately wants.
On one level, that’s for me personally. Two decades ago, I was charged with defamation by the Regulatory Crown at the time when I labeled it weak as a legal body and specifically mentioned the money laundering allegations.
I thank Commissioner Bergin for offering me some relief and justification in this regard.
Money laundering isn’t just about a trader cleaning up some of the money they made from a cash-in-hand job. Money laundering is a crime committed by drug dealers, child pornographers and even terrorists. By allowing money laundering, governments make crime easier.
The Crown Casino surveillance footage was featured in a 2019 court case that resulted in a man being prosecuted for money laundering.
Easy money laundering machines are found in every suburb and populous city of NSW, and I’m not talking about the local laundromat. Any club or pub with a poker machine can be involved in money laundering, whether they are aware of it or not. It’s just too easy to get to a venue, put $ 500 of dirty money in a machine, do a few spins, and then withdraw $ 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 in NSW. As workers, they said they had regularly seen people come in with shopping bags of cash to wash their clothes, just like they did at Crown, but they were too worried about their jobs to comment.
This is why the cashless gambling card proposed by NSW is so important. In her report, Commissioner Bergin mentioned the potential benefits of such a card and called it “an effective mechanism to help fight money laundering”.
If you have a card to use a poker machine that requires ID to be attached, money laundering via poker machines is effectively stopped overnight. It would also have the added benefit of reducing the damage caused by gambling by helping people monitor and manage their own expenses.
Crown Casino in Melbourne.Recognition:Scott McNaughton
I was also delighted to read that Commissioner Bergin recommended a truly independent, robust casino commission with the powers of a royal commission and the ability to override any government deal. This leads to the root of the problem in NSW and across the country – regulators have gotten too comfortable with Crown. This change would also put Sydney’s Star Casino under a much-needed microscope.
I am excited to see what will happen now to Crown’s operations in Melbourne and Perth.
The question is, if Crown is unable to hold a license in NSW, should it hold it in Victoria and Western Australia?
This is a particularly important question in Victoria as Bergin’s results are based on how the Melbourne casino works. There is no question that Crown blames people, including its own employees, for profits and should be held accountable for them.
It is time for the privileged reign of the gaming industry in Australia to end and, in particular, Crown’s VIP status.
Tim Costello is the director of Ethical Voice and spokesperson for the Alliance for Gambling Reform.
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Reverend Tim Costello is the Alliance’s lead advocate for gambling reform.
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