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Special Manager continues independent oversight of Melbourne Casino Operator's reform program

The Activity Report provides an update on the work of the Special Manager during the third 6 months of operation.

Wednesday, 19 July 2023 at 12:00 am
Melbourne metropolitan

The Special Manager for the Melbourne Casino Operator, Mr Stephen O’Bryan KC, today released a third 6-monthly activity report(opens in a new window) on his continued work independently oversighting the Melbourne casino operator, including monitoring the progress of Crown’s reforms in response to the significant issues and failings identified by the Finkelstein Royal Commission.(opens in a new window)

During the reporting period 1 January to 30 June 2023, the Special Manager and his office have focused on:

  • assessing the effectiveness of Crown’s reform work related to cultural change, governance, risk management and compliance, responsible service of gambling, and preventing financial crime
  • overseeing Crown’s current operations, particularly its broader integrity framework and compliance with legal and regulatory requirements
  • continued engagement with key stakeholders across state and federal government agencies, non-government organisations, community representatives, academics, and other experts
  • collecting and analysing information, including through focus groups with casino employees, walk-throughs, live demonstrations, sample testing, and data analysis
  • preparing the third confidential six-monthly interim report for the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) (opens in a new window)and the Minister for Casino, Gaming and Liquor Regulation(opens in a new window), and 
  • identifying the main areas of Crown’s reform work for assessment and evaluation in the final reporting period, 1 July to 31 December 2023.

The OSM has closely monitored the implementation of key aspects of Crown’s broader integrity framework focussing on Crown’s Code of Conduct, whistleblower regime, anti-bribery and corruption measures, and public complaints handling systems. A strong integrity framework underpins organisational cultures of operating lawfully and with integrity.

“Crown’s Code of Conduct and related policies and procedures must be reinforced through active leadership and ongoing education and training to support employees to act consistently with the values and ethical standards the community has a right to expect of a licensed casino operator,” Mr O’Bryan said.

The Special Manager noted Crown has enhanced its governance framework for handling whistleblower disclosures, including appointing a Whistleblower Protection Officer supported by an internal ‘Speak Up’ campaign designed to raise awareness of whistleblower processes and protections, and to build confidence for employees to raise concerns.

“The OSM’s assessment of Crown’s work on strengthening its integrity framework will continue, including to evaluate whether Crown establishes sound governance and resourcing to effectively drive anti-bribery and corruption prevention work across the organisation,” Mr O’Bryan said.

“An area that needs considerable improvement is Crown’s approach to handling complaints to ensure any concerns raised by customers and other members of the public are properly recorded, considered, and responded to. An audit by Crown to identify how its public complaints handling policies, systems and practices can be improved will be independently monitored and assessed by the OSM,” Mr O’Bryan said.

The Special Manager has provided a more detailed and confidential interim report for the January to June 2023 reporting period to the VGCCC and the Minister. The Interim Report is submitted on a confidential basis because of the ongoing legally and commercially sensitive nature of the Special Manager’s work. The Special Manager is restricted from making detailed public comment on how Crown is progressing on its reforms and efforts to return to suitability. 

In January 2024, the Special Manager will submit a final report to the VGCCC and the Minister. The Special Manager’s reports will play a key role in informing the VGCCC’s decision on whether Crown has returned to suitability to hold the Melbourne casino licence.

The activity report notes the obligations of Crown to implement longer-term reforms to prevent gambling harm and crime at the casino introduced by the Victorian Government. Reforms include a mandatory pre-commitment scheme, a new Responsible Gambling Code of Conduct, and restrictions on the use of cash at the casino. These measures are considered world leading practice for a casino of Melbourne’s size and must be implemented by December 2025.