SYDNEY (Reuters) – Western Australia upgraded an inquiry into Crown Resorts Ltd to a Royal Commission on Friday, saying the state needed to take this measure to ensure there were sufficient legal protections to investigate the casino operator.
The move means the company, one-third owned by billionaire James Packer, will face Royal Commissions in two Australian states simultaneously, just as it seeks to rebuild its management following a separate inquiry that saw its CEO and a host of directors leave in the past month.
An inquiry into Crown’s plans to open a new casino in Sydney last month found it was unfit to hold a gambling licence due to allegations it dealt with tour operators linked to organised crime, failed to protect a dozen and a half staff jailed in China for breaking that country’s anti-gambling laws, and had “dysfunctional” leadership dominated by Packer.
The states where Crown already has casinos quickly announced their own inquiries, with Victoria choosing a Royal Commission and Western Australia picking a less powerful independent probe.
Before the upgrade to a Royal Commission, the Western Australian inquiry had the powers of a Royal Commission but the commissioner did “not have the immunities and protections afforded by the Royal Commissions Act”, the state’s Attorney General John Quigley told reporters.
Royal Commissions are Australia’s most powerful type of inquiry where investigators can compel witnesses to testify. They typically end with a report that includes formal recommendations which may include recommendations for referrals to law enforcement agencies.
The Western Australia Royal Commission would be required to deliver its final report by Nov. 14, Quigley said, making it longer than the Victorian inquiry which runs to August.
A Crown spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.
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