The Gaming and Wagering Commission of Western Australia (GWC) has 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.
If approved, the inquiry would be established under the direction of the Minister for Racing, Gaming and Liquor with a brief to delve into matters uncovered by a similar inquiry conducted in New South Wales, and outlined in a report by Commissioner Patricia Bergin made public last week.
In a statement issued Tuesday, the GWC commended Bergin for her work in NSW but said advice received from the WA State’s Solicitor’s Office “identified that under Western Australian legislation the GWC could not rely on the Bergin Inquiry to make findings in relation to Crown Perth.”
Crown Perth is one of two current casino operations in Australia run by Crown alongside its long-time flagship Crown Melbourne. The company’s AU$2.2 billion Crown Sydney development is yet to launch casino operations with the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority confirming this week that Crown is not yet suitable to retain its license.
Among the specific terms of reference the GWC wants to establish via its own inquiry are:
- The suitability of Crown Perth as a casino gaming license operator in WA in light of the findings of the Bergin report
- The suitability of close associates
- The appropriateness of Crown Perth’s responses to the GWC prior to and during the Bergin Inquiry
- The effectiveness of the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries and the GWC in the discharge of its regulatory responsibilities inclusive of any perceived conflicts of interest
- Recommendations on potential legislative amendments or regulatory controls that will address strategic risks identified in the Bergin Inquiry
In the meantime, the GWC said it is now moving to ratify a ban on all junket operations at Crown Perth, although it noted there had been limited opportunity for junkets to operate in Western Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The GWC has confidence that in light of international borders closing due to COVID-19 there were no junkets taking place at Crown Perth from March 2020,” it said.
“The last junket from mainland China to Crown Perth was in November 2016, the last from Hong Kong was August 2019 and the last from Macau was March 2020.
“At the December 2020 GWC meeting, the Commissioners noted Crown’s suspension of junket operations and the closure of the Riverbank account,” an account alleged to have been used by junkets to launder money.
The GWC also said it has reached out to regulators in NSW and Victoria to establish a working group, “with a view to establishing consistent best practice across three jurisdictions and to provide for engagement with key Federal agencies responsible for the Anti-money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006.”