The Queensland government has announced a raft of proposed amendments to the state’s gambling laws it says will improve compliance requirements, increase penalties and provide for greater gambling harm minimization measures.
The amendments, announced by the office of Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Shannon Fentiman on Thursday, form part of a new Casino Control and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 which aims to prevent criminal influence and exploitation in casinos following recent inquiries into casino operators Crown Resorts in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia, and Star Entertainment Group in NSW.
“This Bill will ensure Queenslanders can have confidence in the integrity of our casino laws,” the Attorney-General said.
“These reforms seek to address concerns which have emerged from the public inquiries into casinos operated by Crown Resorts in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia, as well as investigations underway into the Star Entertainment Group.
“As a result of the changes, there will be significant pecuniary penalties as a disciplinary action of up to $50 million.
“These reforms are considered to be examples of best practice casino regulation and will be in place before the opening of the new casino at Queen’s Wharf to be operated by The Star.”
Star operates two casinos in Queensland – The Star Gold Coast and Treasury Brisbane – with the latter to be incorporated into the company’s AU$3.6 billion (US$2.6 billion) Queen’s Wharf Project. Two smaller casinos, The Ville in Townsville and Reef Hotel Casino in Cairns, are located more than 1,000 kilometers to the north.
Notably, the announcement of regulatory changes suggests the Queensland government will not follow the lead of its southern counterpart by holding an inquiry of its own into Star, which is currently in the midst of public hearings into its suitability to retain its casino license for The Star Sydney.
The inquiry, primarily centered around the company’s relationship with Asian junket operators, has already seen multiple directors and senior executives step down, including long-time CEO Matt Bekier and Chairman John O’Neill.
In announcing the introduction of a new gambling bill, Queensland’s Attorney-General said changes will also be made to help operators transition to cashless gaming.
“The Palaszczuk Government made a commitment to transition to safe cashless gaming and during the pandemic we saw the use of cash decline as industries moved to non-cash options,” Fentiman said.
“Moving towards more traceable electronic transactions was also a recommendation of the Finkelstein Inquiry into the Crown Casino to prevent money laundering.
“This Bill will modernise Queensland’s gambling legislation to allow new payment methods and systems to be considered for use, provided they are safe and reliable.
“We will also ensure that we can maintain our strong gambling harm minimisation measures.
“These amendments will not only provide the government with the flexibility to consider new and innovative approaches to gaming, but will ensure that emergent technology can be subjected to appropriate controls in order to address potential risks.”