New South Wales gaming industry regulator's chair, Philip Crawford, has been announced to helm the state's new independent casino regulator. Crawford, current boss of the Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority (ILGA), will be the chief commissioner of the NSW Independent Casino Commission, which has been established to oversee properties with enhanced compliance and enforcement powers.
Hospitality Minister Kevin Anderson announced this appointment and said: "Mr Crawford has a comprehensive understanding of the regulatory issues facing modern casinos and the need to fundamentally reset the way they operate. Under his leadership, NSW casinos will be monitored in line with the new laws and face strong disciplinary action for compliance failures, past and present."
Crawford will be supported by four commissioners who will transition from the ILGA. The NICC formally begins operations next week, and its first task will be considering the findings of an inquiry into gaming giant The Star, which has been looking at whether the company's Sydney casino should keep its licence after media claims of organized crime, fraud and foreign interference.
Lawyers assisting the inquiry have argued the company is not fit to operate as a casino, but the legal team for Star Entertainment contends it is suitable following a clean-out of senior management. Adam Bell SC's report is due to be handed to the ILGA this week.
The Star Sydney.
The creation of this new casino commission was a key recommendation made after the Bergin inquiry into The Star's rival Crown Resorts, which found the company was unfit to open its AUD 2 billion ($1.3 billion) Sydney casino last year.
Gambling operations eventually opened earlier this month at Crown's Barangaroo tower after the company was forced to overhaul its board, management and procedures. It has a conditional licence to operate until the end of next year. After the inquiry's report, Crown was bought out by US private equity giant Blackstone for $6.2 billion in a deal that removed former boss James Packer as a shareholder.
At the time, the inquiry made 19 recommendations to improve transparency and accountability for casino operators and clamp down on organized crime and money laundering. According to Minister Anderson, the new regulatory body, set to take into account these recommendations, will give people confidence in casino operations, ensuring they are free from criminal influence.
Anderson said Crawford would work full-time as chief commissioner and continue to support ILGA as an ordinary board member, according to The West. The NICC will work with ILGA and Hospitality and Racing and as part of a multi-agency coordination committee with NSW Police and the NSW Crime Commission to guide the regulatory efforts of NICC and ILGA.
Crown Sydney's Simon McGrath.
This week, Crown Sydney’s chief executive and group head of hospitality Simon McGrath announced he is stepping down from the company just eight months after joining the business. The company has now confirmed his exit. McGrath, who joined the company in February, will leave in September.
Also recently, The Star's inquiry into the company's operations in the state of Queensland has seen a turn of events when industry insiders called on the state for not scrutinizing the casino regulator.
Executives for the Australian casino giant have been giving evidence to a commission of inquiry into the operation of its existing casino licenses in Brisbane and the Gold Coast, which now prepares to release its final report.
Star admitted it should not have opened its doors to “highly suspicious cashed-up gamblers” banned from casinos in other states, or allowed tens of millions of dollars in disguise as expenses to be gambled using a Chinese bank card.