© Reuters. The logo of the Australian casino giant Crown Resorts Ltd adorns the hotel and casino complex in Melbourne, Australia
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Western Australia on Friday expanded an investigation into Crown Resorts Ltd into a high-level royal commission, saying it needed to ensure adequate legal protection was in place to investigate the casino operator.
The move means the company, which is one-third owned by billionaire James Packer, will face Royal Commissions in two Australian states at the same time, just as it is trying to rebuild its management after a separate investigation involving its CEO and one Large number of directors left the company in the past month.
An investigation into Crown's plans to open a new casino in Sydney last month found that it was unsuitable for a gambling license due to organized crime allegations against tour operators and that personnel detained in China were not protected was because it had violated that country's gambling laws and had "dysfunctional" leadership dominated by Packer.
The states where Crown already has casinos then announced their own investigations, with Victoria choosing a quasi-judicial Royal Commission and Western Australia choosing a less powerful format.
Prior to upgrading to a Royal Commission, the Western Australian investigation had royal commission powers, but the commissioner "did not have the immunity and protection offered by the Royal Commissions Act," Attorney General John Quigley told reporters.
A royal commission would give "the next state government a thorough and independent scrutiny" of the crown and state regulatory system, Minister of Racing and Gambling Paul Papalia added in a statement.
The updated investigation was called while the state government was in "caretaker" mode prior to a state election.
Crown Chairwoman Helen Coonan said the Royal Commission was an opportunity for the company "to detail the reforms and changes in our business in order to achieve the highest standards of governance and compliance and an organizational culture that meets community expectations corresponds to ".
Royal Commissions are Australia's most powerful type of investigation where investigators can compel witnesses to testify. They usually end with a report, which can include recommendations for law enforcement referrals.
The Royal Commission in Western Australia would have to submit its final report by Nov. 14, Quigley said, making it longer than the Victorian investigation, which runs through August.
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