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Crown Makes Final Appeal To Vic Inquiry
Crown Makes Final Appeal To Vic Inquiry
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Crown says it's too big and integral to Victoria's economy to be stripped of its Melbourne licence. In his closing submissions to the bruising royal commission into the gambling giant, Michael Borsky QC said Crown had paid Victoria at least $1.4 billion in taxes since 2014. He said Crown Melbourne employed more than 12,500 people and contributed about $1.2 billion to the Victorian economy every year before the COVID-19 pandemic, as well providing about 10 per cent of the city's hotel rooms. Unless cancellation of the Southbank casino's licence was deferred, "significant harm" would be caused to many people, Mr Borsky said. However, Commissioner Ray Finkelstein QC was not convinced. The former Federal Court judge said Crown Melbourne remained a profitable business and therefore, while its 12,500 employees may change employers, they were not at risk. "Someone will always step in," Commissioner Finkelstein said. "When you have a profitable business ... there will be an operator out in the world, a suitable one." Mr Borsky admitted fault on behalf of Crown for the extensive failures revealed throughout the Victorian inquiry, which include up to $272 million in unpaid gaming taxes, as well as the earlier NSW inquiry overseen by Patricia Bergin. "There has been a substantial and warranted decrease in the public's trust in Crown's operations," he told the inquiry. "All of those failings are accepted by Crown with humility and contrition." Mr Borsky also confirmed Crown executive chair Helen Coonan, a former Howard government cabinet minister, would step down from the board by August 31. Crown Melbourne earlier on Tuesday announced chief executive Xavier Walsh would step down on August 20, before leaving the company in December. Mr Walsh, the inquiry heard previously, knew Crown Melbourne underpaid millions in Victorian gaming taxes for three years but did nothing about it until the day after the royal commission was announced. Mr Borsky said Mr Walsh had displayed "errors of judgement", but did not lack integrity. But Commissioner Finkelstein poured cold water on Mr Borsky's suggestion that an independent monitor could be temporarily appointed to run the casino while its reform program was implemented. He described this as a "risk-free" result for Crown, where it might have to pay costs and unpaid gaming taxes, but would not suffer any other consequences, likening the situation to a car thief promising a court they would not re-offend. "Not only is it not how the system works, it's not what the public expects," Commissioner Finkelstein said. Meanwhile, Gaming Minister Melissa Horne announced a gambling regulation overhaul. The new Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission will have oversight of all gaming in the state and follows a separate review into the current watchdog, which monitors gambling and liquor. Ms Horne described merging liquor and gaming regulation as a "failed experiment of the past". A dedicated casino division will monitor Crown's Southbank complex. "What this will do is provide us with a sharp focus and a dedicated division in the new regulator that focuses directly on regulating the casino," Ms Horne told reporters at parliament. Legislation to split the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation will come before parliament by the end of 2021. Commissioner Finkelstein is due to report his findings by October 15.  
  
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