Western Australia’s Chief Casino Officer has stepped down from the role ahead of a possible new inquiry into Crown Resorts’ suitability to hold a WA state casino license following revelations he regularly socialized with members of Crown Perth’s legal and compliance team.
Michael Connolly, Deputy Director General of the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries (DLGSC), resigned from the role after he was questioned by a local media outlet on his friendship with certain Crown Resorts employees.
That friendship included “taking them fishing on his trailer boat,” according to DLGSC Director General, Duncan Ord, with Connolly opting to step down despite there being no direct suggestion of any improper dealings.
“Mr Connolly does not refute socializing with employees of Crown Perth, including taking them fishing on his trailer boat,” Ord said via a statement this week. “The nature of the relationship is one of being friends for an extended period.
“This friendship, and any potential or perceived conflict has been declared formally and has been discussed and declared to myself and the former director general Barry Sargeant, as well as the Gaming and Wagering Commission, who have noted the declaration of interest in the minutes of meetings.
“In consideration that there should be no perception of a conflict of interest, Mr Connolly is stepping aside from his role as Chief Casino Officer effective immediately.”
News of Connolly’s departure came shortly after the Gaming and Wagering Commission of Western Australia (GWC) formally called for an independent inquiry to be held into Crown Resorts in an effort to determine if the troubled casino operator remains suitable to hold a state casino license. The inquiry, similar to one recently completed in NSW, could be deemed necessary because the WA State’s Solicitor’s Office has stated that under Western Australian legislation, the GWC “could not rely on the [NSW] Bergin Inquiry to make findings in relation to Crown Perth.”
In a statement of its own on Wednesday, Crown said it would fully co-operate in relation to the new inquiry and will “continue to engage with the WA Commission in relation to its reform agenda and any further remedial steps identified in response to the NSW ILGA Inquiry.”
Crown Resorts Executive Chairman Helen Coonan added, “Crown is determined to play a constructive role with all of its regulators as it works to restore public and regulatory confidence in its operations.”