The gaming regulator in Western Australia (WA) has admitted that it did not properly manage conflicts of interest related to Crown Perth’s operations. The admission comes as a royal commission investigates whether poor government oversight led to problems such as money laundering and problem gambling at the casino. This revelation will give Crown Resorts ammunition to fight future regulatory attacks.
Western Australia Looks to Clean Up Gaming
The Gaming and Wagering Commission (GWC) regulates the Burswood venue. This is a part-time, seven-member board that meets monthly. It has assistance from the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries (DLGSCI).
WA’s inquiry heard that the GWC decided not to investigate money laundering allegations against Crown after the operator’s “persuasive former legal boss” told the regulator that the allegations were nothing more than a media witch hunt.
Evidence also supports the claim that the former chief casino officer of the state shared regular fishing trips with two Crown employees. As it prepares to deliver its final report, the royal commission heard closing submissions on Tuesday.
Changes Coming to WA Gaming
Fiona Seaward, the lawyer representing the DLGSCI, presented a review of GWC and its department processes, including the requirement to disclose personal relationships to Crown staff and register gifts, benefits, and hospitality. She stated that the department was currently examining its code and would be receiving integrity presentations from the state’s corruption watchdog as well as the public sector commission.
Seaward added that the department had accepted and now accepts that the historical management of conflicts was not up to standard for a modern regulatory agency. “The department has accepted, and accepts today, that its historical management of conflicts of interest was not of the standard expected of a modern public sector organization involved in regulation,” she asserted.
Seaward said that WA does not have a permanent chief of casino officer, but that Jennifer Shelton, a departmental executive, was to be appointed.
Crown Given Too Much Control
The royal commission is reviewing whether regulators in WA allowed Crown to self-regulate certain aspects of its Perth operations. An interim report highlighted changes such as the deregulation and reduction of junket operations, and the use of fewer inspectors who were not present permanently on the casino floor since mid-2015.
Crown, which could be sold to Blackstone Group for $6.46 billion, was found to have “enabled” or facilitated money laundering at its Perth casino. It linked a bank account to Riverbank Investments, a shell company.
Paul Evans, the GWC’s lawyer, stated that its members received “very little remuneration” while the board was dependent on the department. He stated that GWC does not urge sympathy for Crown officers, past or present, nor for former members of the commission.
In the coming days, the inquiry will hear closing submissions from James Packer, the major shareholder of Crown, and Crown lawyers. Last year, the billionaire told the royal commission that he had “many oversights” while overseeing Crown’s Perth casino operations from 2004 to 2016.