A former Victorian gaming minister has demanded the state’s gambling regulator investigate allegations aired by Nine against the operator of Melbourne’s casino, Crown Resorts, that include accusations of links to organised crime in China.

Tony Robinson, who was minister for gaming in the late 2000s under the Labor premier John Brumby, said the Melbourne casino had the potential to damage the state’s reputation, and the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation must allocate more resources to supervising it.

“The regulator has for too long not applied the powers it has to scrutinise Crown adequately and it’s therefore no surprise to see these sorts of stories emerging,” he said.

“Regulatory failure in this instance gives rise to criminal enterprise and serious harm to the state.”

His call came as it emerged Crown was warned Chinese authorities were cracking down on illegal gambling promotion, and the company’s staff were warned to avoid electronic communication to minimise the risk of detection, more than a year before 19 staff were arrested by mainland authorities.

In other developments, the independent MP and long-time Crown critic Andrew Wilkie, backed by independent senator Jacqui Lambie, called for an investigation into Nine’s claims, to be conducted by one of federal parliament’s joint committees.

Crown shares fell 3.24%, or 41c, on Monday to close at $12.26.

The VCGLR’s chief executive, Catherine Myers, said the regulator was continuing an existing investigation into Crown’s activities in China that has already been running for two years, but did not say whether it would look into fresh allegations raised in Nine’s report.

However, NSW’s gambling regulator, Liquor & Gaming NSW, said it would “work with other Australian casino regulators to understand if any action should be taken in light of the allegations raised against Crown”.

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Reports in Nine’s newspapers over the past few days and on its flagship TV current affairs show, 60 Minutes, alleged tens of thousands of leaked internal Crown documents show the casino company has close ties to organised crime through the organisers of junkets run to lure gambling whales from mainland China, where gambling is banned.

Nine also accused Crown, which runs casinos in Melbourne and Perth and is building a vast high-roller gambling pit at Barangaroo in Sydney, of putting staff in China at risk. It also claimed the cousin of China’s president, Xi Jinping, was present on a company jet searched by federal police on suspicion of money laundering in 2016.

In addition, the former Australian Border Force head Roman Quaedvlieg told 60 Minutes two government ministers complained to him that Crown’s VIP jets “weren’t receiving a facilitated service for private jets coming into Australia” and “were seeking some arrangements which smoothed out the processes there a little”.

Court records show Crown was warned that Chinese authorities were cracking down on casino marketing in March 2015, more than a year before its staff were arrested and charged with promoting gambling. The 19 Crown workers were later convicted by a Shanghai court.

“It would be well advised to avoid cell phone and text message communications dealing with marketing efforts to the degree possible, and limit overall use while in country,” Crown was told in the report, compiled by US corporate intelligence company Mintz Group.

Crown staff should “assume that all communications are either being actively monitored”, Mintz said in the report, excerpts of which were published in a May federal court judgment.

“It is for this reason that a phone call is better than a digital message, simply for the reason that it usually requires live monitoring to be productive for an investigation should one occur.”

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Nine’s allegations come at a sensitive time for Crown, with the company’s biggest shareholder, James Packer, midway through unloading much of his holding to Hong Kong’s Melco Resorts, headed by his friend and former business partner, Lawrence Ho.

Regulators in NSW and Victoria have already flagged probity checks over the involvement in Crown of Ho, whose father Stanley Ho has been banned from involvement with the Barangaroo casino over allegations he has links to triad organised crime groups.

There is no suggestion Packer was involved in any of the allegations raised by Nine.

The VCGLR’s investigation of Crown’s Chinese imbroglio was delayed after the company told the regulator it would take “many months” to recover emails sought by officials from back-up tapes.

It was not completed by the time the VCGLR published its five-year review of the Melbourne casino license in June last year.

“The VCGLR is continuing to consider the well-publicised events regarding Crown’s international commission-based business and its international sales team in China,” the VCGLR’s Myers said.

“The VCGLR strongly encourages anyone with information related to alleged breaches by the casino operator, to submit this information via this process available on our website.”

A Crown spokeswoman said the company “notes the media reports over the weekend which make various allegations regarding Crown’s business dealings”.

“Crown takes its legal and regulatory responsibilities very seriously,” she said.

She said the company “denies any allegation that it knowingly exposed its staff to the risk of detention or conviction in China.”

“Crown has a robust process for vetting junket operators with whom it deals and undertakes regular ongoing reviews of these operators in the light of new or additional information that comes to its attention.”

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The Australian federal police declined to answer the Guardian’s questions about whether it was investigating allegations of money laundering or any other potential federal crimes raised by Nine. “The AFP does not confirm who it is or is not investigating,” a spokeswoman said.

Robinson said Crown’s Melbourne casino, which is the company’s biggest, was “a single casino which if it doesn’t act in good faith damages the state’s reputation”. “The VCGLR has fallen for the old trick of thinking it’s a manager of paperwork, rather than the state’s regulator,” he said.

He said the VCGLR should put more resources into regulating the casino. “The risk of harm that arises to the state from a failure of the casino is infinitely greater than the misdeeds of one liquor license holder and it should be given far more resources.

“If they are not investigating the claims that were raised recently then they are failing in their duties.”

In federal parliament, the Greens MP Adam Bandt asked the prime minister, Scott Morrison, to guarantee no ministers had lobbied for special treatment for Crown’s high rollers and to rule out any improper behaviour by home affairs officials.

“There has been nothing presented to me that would indicate there are any matters there for me to address,” Morrison said.

A home affairs spokeswoman said arrangements allowing people arriving by plane to clear the border without going through an international airport terminal had been in place since before 2016.

“Travellers arriving or departing through an off terminal clearance process are required to meet the same border clearance requirements as if entering an international terminal,” she said.



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