Western Australian Probe Finds Crown Resorts 'Not Suitable'

March 24, 2022
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A Royal Commission has found Crown Resorts unsuitable to hold a casino licence in the Western Australian capital of Perth, but the company will retain its licence pending remediation.

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A Royal Commission has found Crown Resorts unsuitable to hold a casino licence in the Western Australian capital of Perth, but the company will retain its licence pending remediation.

Crown Resorts has now suffered a trifecta of unsuitability findings with this latest investigation, following similar rulings by New South Wales (NSW) state’s Bergin Inquiry and a Royal Commission in Victoria state into Crown Melbourne.

Crown Perth’s compliance failures included “facilitating money laundering”, the absence of an effective anti-money laundering program, “permitting junkets with links to criminals to operate at Perth Casino”, insufficient protection of problem gamblers and “failing to be open and accountable” with the regulator, according to the report’s foreword.

However, as with the earlier probes, the Royal Commission has not held any individual officer to account and Crown will be allowed to continue operations under certain conditions, pending comprehensive reform via a new Gaming and Wagering Commission Act.

The report has, however, been forwarded by the government to state police and federal corporate and transactions watchdogs.

The Perth Casino Royal Commission’s 994-page report into the suitability of Crown Resorts and its subsidiaries to run the city’s casino was tabled in state parliament on Thursday (March 24) following its completion early in the month.

Commissioners Neville Owen, Carolyn Jenkins and Colin Murphy found that Crown Perth is not a suitable person to manage a casino or to hold a casino licence and that parent Crown Resorts and two other subsidiaries are not suitable persons to be associated with casino operations.

Their 59 recommendations include enhancing board accountability, clarifying managerial roles, the introduction of a slot machine pre-commitment scheme, lower minimum bets and patron time limits on the casino floor, retention of player gaming data by an Independent Advisory Body, compulsory financial vetting of premium customers, and restructuring and boosting of the state casino regulator.

The report envisages a two-year implementation period, after which the casino’s operations and its owners would be assessed by the independent monitor tasked with overseeing “remediation activities”.

In contrast to the probes in other states, the commissioners did not recommend a ban on junkets, provided they are “authorised and individually licensed”.

They also recommend that lawmakers review restrictive and archaic legislation on electronic gaming machines and consider loosening rules to allow newer technologies into the market while controlling for problem gambling.

Western Australian gaming minister Tony Buti said on Thursday that the government will move quickly to legislate the recommendations.

The Crown Perth probe is the third and final state government investigation into the company’s misbehaviour, which has cascaded into a near-complete purge of board members, major managerial restructuring and the end of controlling shareholder James Packer’s outsized board influence.

However, investigations into Crown by federal agencies and legal action by transactions regulator AUSTRAC are ongoing.

In terms of regulatory impact, the Western Australian probe is akin to the NSW Bergin Report, but considerably less invasive than the Victoria Royal Commission, which led to a state-appointed special manager with veto powers over board decisions.

Anti-gambling federal lawmaker Andrew Wilkie, an independent representing Tasmania state who has released whistleblower evidence against Crown, called the remediation plan yet another “slap on the wrist”.

“I find it impossible to believe this cowboy casino outfit is suddenly going to embark on a path of righteousness, no matter how much oversight is provided,” Wilkie wrote in a statement on his website on Thursday.

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