Andrew Wilkie has called on the federal government to launch an official inquiry into a series of damning allegations made against Melbourne’s Crown Casino and Entertainment Complex.
The Victorian gambling hub has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons over the past week, with various media sources claiming the casino has engaged in dodgy dealings to lure in foreign high-stakes players.
Fairfax Media and Nine Entertainment outlets reported over the weekend that Crown paid a known brothel owner and money launderer to attract high rollers to the Southbank casino.
They also claimed that Asian sex workers were flown into the country as part of the operation, sparking concerns over breaches of border security and immigration control.
Wilkie, an independent MP from Tasmania and a known critic of the Australian gambling industry, believes PM Scott Morrison and his offsider Anthony Albanese should both throw their support behind a federal inquiry into the scandal.
“I would hope the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader would see the sense in a parliamentary response,” he told reporters on Monday.
“This is a lot more now than allegations about one little casino.
“It’s multi-jurisdictional, it’s multi-agency, it’s international.
“This is very much something that the Australian government and the Australian Parliament should have an interest in.”
Concerns over operational standards at Crown Casino are nothing new, as the Victorian Commission for Gaming and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) has issued several warnings over management missteps in recent years.
But there are even greater concerns over the VCGLR itself, which has been accused of turning a blind eye to all the back-room shenanigans that have now emerged in the media.
According to Wilkie, who last week lodged a complaint against the VCGLR with the Victorian Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC), the Crown scandal could serve as a launching pad for a wide-ranging review of gambling regulation at Australian casinos.
“I think that would be one of the things that a parliamentary inquiry could explore – the degree to which there is a cultural or systemic problem among Australia’s casino industry,” he said.
“But even if there is not a problem in other casinos, Crown is in some ways Australia’s most iconic casinos, and these allegations are so serious.
“The government needs to take notice.
“We now know we can’t rely on the Victorian gaming regulator. We can’t rely on the Victorian police. It seems we now can’t rely on consular officials, if these allegations are correct.”
Crown Melbourne is the largest gambling complex in the Southern Hemisphere, while Crown Resorts Limited employs more than 18,000 people across two sites in Australia.