The Queensland government has proposed tighter law control for land-based casinos in the Australian state, including a provision to raise maximum penalties to AUD 50 million (USD 35 million).
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Shannon Fentiman said the proposed reforms in the Casino Control and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 will help prevent criminal influence and exploitation in casinos, as a response to recent inquiries into casinos by other states, with gaming giants Crown Resorts and The Star Entertainment Group having faced investigations over their activities.
“This Bill will ensure Queenslanders can have confidence in the integrity of our casino laws. 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," the Attorney-General said.
"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," Fentiman added. The new multipurpose entertainment and hotel precinct is set to open by mid-2023.
Fentiman said the bill would also seek to improve gambling harm minimization measures in the state, allowing the government to consider “new and innovative approaches” to help protect players from gambling-related harm. It will also include changes that will help deliver the Government’s commitment to transition to safe cashless gaming.
“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," the Attorney-General said.
These amendments have been described as not only set to provide the government with the flexibility to consider new and innovative approaches to gaming, but also to ensure that emergent technology can be subjected to appropriate controls in order to address potential risks.
The Bill will also introduce changes for charities and not-for-profits by introducing a mutual recognition scheme for fundraising approvals in Queensland. Charities registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission and that notify the Office of Fair Trading can be deemed a registered charity in Queensland and can fundraise in the state.
“These changes are part of the Government’s ongoing work to reduce regulatory burdens for charities and Queensland will continue to work with the other states and territories to deliver further national harmonisation of fundraising laws.”
Additionally, charities that are not registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission may still seek registration directly from the Office of Fair Trading, and will no longer have to await the conclusion of a 28-day objections period before their applications are finalised.
The law proposal comes amid The Star's ongoing inquiry
Fentiman added that further changes to the legislation may be considered at the conclusion of current investigations into The Star, which is currently the subject of an inquiry by the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority amid accusations that the operators knowingly worked with junkets that had ties to criminal groups, and that its anti-money laundering measures were insufficient.
Meanwhile, Crown is keen on opening its Sydney casino as it works with regulators on governance failures that have troubled the company throughout the last two years. The $1.6 billion integrated resort first opened in December 2020, but without gaming after a government probe in New South Wales determined Crown was not suitable to conduct gambling operations.
A ruling by a royal commission late last year allowed Crown to keep its prized Melbourne, Victoria casino license under the supervision of a government-appointed “special manager” tasked with overseeing all operations