Western Australia (WA)'s government introduced new legislation to parliament on Wednesday that will see casino operators face penalties of up to $100 million for failing to comply with regulations under new laws. The move comes on the same day New South Wales (NSW) Hospitality and Racing Minister Kevin Anderson announced a suite of measures to reform the NSW gaming industry, which will be introduced by August.
The reform push from both Australian jurisdiction stems from an inquiry on Crown Resorts' suitability to run the Sydney casino. The NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority confirmed on Wednesday that Crown Resorts has gained permission to open its flagship Sydney casino, just days before Blackstone’s takeover is completed. The license will be reviewed at the end of 2023.
A Royal Commission found Crown and its subsidiaries facilitated money laundering at the casino, failed to implement systems to detect suspicious transactions and permitted junkets with criminal links to operate at the Burswood complex.
The WA government's new legislation addresses these commission's recommendations, the Australian Associated Press reports. It will enable an independent chair to be appointed to WA's gaming regulator who will oversee the casino's remediation process. The maximum fine for non-compliance with WA regulations will increase from $100,000 to $100 million.
WA Racing and Gaming Minister Tony Buti said the legislation would allow the government to hold the casino operator to account. "We will also be able to recoup the cost of the independent monitor from the casino operator under provisions within the bill. Once this legislation has passed, we will progress with further reforms to bring the state's other casino laws into the 21st century."
The takeover of Crown Resorts by US private equity giant Blackstone was approved this month by the Federal Court and regulators in WA, NSW and Victoria. Buti said at the time Blackstone would be required to meet stringent conditions, including enhanced reporting of anti-money laundering and responsible gambling activities.
The WA royal commission found Crown had failed to minimise gambling-related harm and was not open and accountable in its communications with the state regulator. The report, containing 59 recommendations, also found there had been numerous deficiencies in the oversight of the casino by WA's Gaming and Wagering Commission and Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries.
As for NSW, under the upcoming new legislation, a NSW Independent Casino Commission will be established with enhanced compliance and enforcement powers. The dedicated regulator will be led by a chief commissioner, with up to four additional commissioners, including at least one with anti-money laundering expertise. Currently, oversight of casino operations in NSW is the responsibility of the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority which reviews licences for all gaming and liquor venues in the state.
Casinos will also be obliged to submit suspicious activity reports to both AUSTRAC and the commission. Minister Anderson said the government was rebuilding the rules for casinos with stringent new controls, The Sydney Morning Herald reports. He noted that the reforms would meet the government’s commitment to supporting all 19 recommendations of the damning inquiry into Crown Resorts, led by former Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin.