The damning findings of recent inquiries into Australia’s two casino giants – Crown resorts and Star Entertainment Group – has led some NSW government ministers to question whether the state needs casinos at all.
Just days after the CEO of Star, Matt Bekier, became the latest high-profile casino executive to fall on his sword amid revelations around his company’s AML controls and relationship with Asian junkets, NSW Transport Minister Rob Stokes has called on colleagues to consider the industry’s future.
Stokes told parliament this week that the inquiries into Crown and Star “would have significant impacts on the regulatory environments faced by casino operators” and that “those impacts will generate a cascading series of consequences that should cause us to pose an existential question about the future of casinos in NSW,” according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
Describing the benefits of casinos as “illusory and ephemeral”, Stokes also called them “veritable cesspits of dishonesty, tax evasion, junkets [and] money laundering”.
The Bergin inquiry into Crown Resorts, concluded in early 2021, found the company unsuitable to hold a casino license for Crown Sydney although there is talk that the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) is poised to re-issue the license imminently given the comprehensive remediation measures since undertaken by Crown.
The findings of a regular review into The Star Sydney will be handed down by June with public hearings concluding this week.
Both inquiries were instigated by media reports around the respective companies’ links to junket operators with Stokes noting that, “Basically, everything we were warned about turns out to be entirely true.
“Revelations of tax evasion also completely undermine the argument that casino operations are justified on the basis of the revenue they provide to support wider social and community benefits.”
The NSW government has already outlined plans to establish a new gaming regulator with specific oversight of the casino industry by the middle of this year.