The Alliance for Gambling Reform today noted the 20 recommendations released by the VCGLR after its 5 yearly review into the Crown Melbourne licence, but lamented the lack of more decisive action.
From a transparency point of view, The Alliance was disappointed the government, Crown and the VCGLR all co-ordinated to release the 209 page report, plus Crown’s 11 page response to the ASX, at 3pm on a Friday afternoon.
After a preliminary assessment, The Alliance believes a number of the recommendations have merit and the disclosures in the report about Crown’s operations are welcome, but the actions should have been stronger.
“Crown was criticised for its performance in a number of areas such as governance, regulatory compliance and responsible gambling, but the sanction from the VCGLR was overly focused on reviews, rather than specific actions or changes to licence conditions,” Mr Costello said.
“The defiant and almost congratulatory tone of Crown’s 11 page statement to the ASX this afternoon, highlights how this review should have gone harder.”
“If the government was proud of its decisive interventions and hard-hitting regulations, it wouldn’t have dropped this at 3pm on a Friday afternoon.”
“The recommendations were weaker than we were hoping for, although there was some progress such as pushing Crown to better monitor gamblers for interventions to address harm, using the enormous data they have through their loyalty card system.”
The Alliance made this submission last year calling for a new licence condition which limits any individual shareholder to no more than 20% of Crown Resorts. Rival Australian gambling giants such as Tabcorp and The Star Entertainment operate with 10% maximum shareholder restrictions imposed by the NSW and/or Queensland governments.
The VCGLR declined to act on this submission, leaving James Packer firmly in control with 46%, despite the various controversies of recent years. The report notes that the matter of Crown staff being arrested in China is still subject to an ongoing VCGLR inquiry.
The Alliance was also hoping the review would generate the public release of various gambling harm metrics at Crown which are currently kept secret.
Whilst the VCGLR has criticised Crown for its slow responses in terms of resourcing and implementing effective gambling harm measures, it hasn’t mandated the public release of any data.
And despite 497 Victorian pokies venues having their annual loss figures released by the government last Friday, there is no ongoing requirement for public disclosure of poker machine losses at Crown.
“Why the ongoing transparency exemption for Crown? Mr Costello asked. “This review could have at least moved on that small example of the different rules which apply to Crown.”
Peter Costello, Alliance for Gambling Reform