New allegations see fresh demands for a Crown Casino inquiry

by Charlotte Lee Last Updated
Victorian royal commission focuses on Crown?s problem gambling strategies

Claims of a limousine driver will be used by Independent MP Andrew Wilkie in his calls for a royal commission into Melbourne’s Crown Casino.

But Crown rejected the allegations on Sunday and said that anyone with evidence of illegal activity should go to the authorities.

As reported in The Sydney Morning Herald, speaking on a condition of anonymity, the whistleblower told the Tasmanian MP that casino employees are expected to ignore or facilitate the law breaking, under a system known among staff as “Crown law”.

The driver says that casino staff will procure drugs or sex workers for the overseas high rollers who are flown into Melbourne Airport on private jets, bypassing the official customs checks imposed on other travellers into the country.

“Whatever a VIP asks for, you’re expected to do it,” the driver said. “Legal, illegal. It doesn’t matter. Crown is a law unto itself. “The laws that the rest of us have to follow mean nothing to Crown.”

Mr Wilkie has joined with Victorian state MP Fiona Patten to launch a push this Monday for a royal commission into Crown, with the driver’s video testimony being another piece of evidence that cannot be ignored by state or federal authorities.

The Department of Home Affairs, who are responsible for customs, says areas of the chauffeur’s allegations are being investigated after Mr Wilkie raised them in Parliament in July.

Mr Wilkie said the commission’s probe was a “half-baked” response and both he and Ms Patten say the time has come for a full scale inquiry into the casino by either the federal government or Victoria.

“I feel strongly now that this has reached the point of requiring a full royal commission,” Mr Wilkie said on Sunday.

He said the Crown driver was an “important witness” and other whistleblowers would come forward where the momentum for a full inquiry into the casino will continue to build.

“The pressure is just going to keep building,” he said.

“I would have thought it is in the Victorian and federal governments’ best interest to really bust this open and clear the air before they become part of the problem.”

Fiona Patten also wants an inquiry

Ms Patten also wants an inquiry, where the performance of the state’s gambling authority and its oversight of Crown would be examined.

“The Parliament has given huge concessions to the operators of Crown through the Casino Control Act and in return we demand they play by the rules – or risk not having a licence to operate in Victoria at all,” the MP for the Reason Party said.

“It’s that simple.

“I have been telling the Government that the gaming regulator, the VCGLR, is not doing their job properly.”

On Sunday, a Crown spokesperson said that the casino rejected the driver’s allegations.

“Crown rejects these all these claims,” the spokesperson said.

“If anyone has any allegation or evidence of unlawful conduct then they should contact the relevant authorities.”

Ross Kennedy, chairman of the Victorian Commission of Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) launched a strong defence of his agency in response to Ms Patten’s criticism, saying the MP had not approached the commission with her concerns.

“The VCGLR is committed to ensuring that Victorians and visitors enjoy safe and responsible gambling and liquor environments and emphatically rejects the unfounded attacks on its competency and any suggestion it is ‘not doing its job properly’,” Mr Kennedy said.

Mr Kennedy has offered to meet Ms Patten and discuss her concerns.

Victorian Gaming Minister Marlene Kairouz defended the VCGLR, saying that she had recently met with them for an update on their investigation.

“I am satisfied that the VCGLR is taking appropriate action to examine the matters raised in the media,” Minister Kairouz said.

“The matters are complex and, therefore, require additional time to thoroughly review.

“The VCGLR will continue to provide me with updates as their work progresses.”

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