Crown Resorts has been found unsuitable to hold a gaming licence in Western Australia, but the lights will stay on in the state’s only casino.
- The royal commission identified a series of failures by Crown Resorts
- It has stopped short of recommending Crown be stripped of its licence
- “Numerous deficiencies” have also been found in WA’s gaming regulator
That is one conclusion from the final report of the Perth Casino Royal Commission, which has been tabled in state parliament today after being delivered to the government earlier this month.
In tabling the report, WA Racing and Gaming Minister Tony Buti said the government accepted the royal commission’s findings and that there had been failings by both Crown and state regulators.
The commission stopped short of calling for Crown to be stripped of its licence, saying the casino giant should undertake remediation work to become suitable, and calling for an independent monitor to be established.
There are 59 recommendations contained in the 1,000-page report, and Dr Buti said the government was considering them in detail.
He said the government accepted the need to reform regulation around Crown, including giving the minister improved powers.
Crown blamed for series of failures
The royal commission identified a series of failures by Crown Resorts, including:
- Facilitating money laundering through what were identified as the Riverbank accounts
- Failing to have an effective anti-money laundering program
- Permitting junkets with links to criminals to operate at the Perth casino
- Failing to minimise casino gambling-related harm
- Failing to be open and accountable in communications with the Gaming and Wagering Commission.
But the report acknowledged that Crown had taken steps to improve its conduct, meaning the commission was dealing with a different situation to similar inquiries in New South Wales and Victoria.
“A lot has changed, mainly for the better, even since the Victorian inquiry reported in October 2021,” the commissioners wrote.
They noted Crown’s corporate and governance structure, as well as the Perth casino’s risk management, gambling-related harm and money laundering programs, all required attention.
The commission also found that the regulatory framework to manage Crown was “anachronistic” and was designed “without the experience or understanding of modern casino gaming operations and the risks which they pose to the public”.
“It was flawed from conception in that it failed to identify the legislative objectives of casino regulation and to clearly express the associated duties and powers of the regulator to meet those objectives,” the report said.
WA gaming regulator ‘deficient’
“Numerous deficiencies” were also identified in WA’s gaming regulator, the Gaming and Wagering Commission (GWC), which the commission found the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries contributed to.
The commissioners found neither organisation had “an adequate or accurate understanding of its role in casino regulation”.
That was only added to by the GWC taking on increasing duties and functions “without a corresponding or sufficient increase in expertise, numbers and funding”.
Recommendations made by the report included:
- Overhauling the governance and structure of the casino and Crown Resorts
- Introducing mandatory limits on electronic gaming machine play
- Impose conditions on membership of the casino’s Pearl Room
- Replacing the existing Casino Control Act
- Increased penalties for regulatory offences
- Improving staffing and resourcing of the GWC.
Report given to CCC, WA Police and crime watchdog
Mr Buti said the people of Western Australia “deserve better” and said the royal commission had found failings by both Crown and state regulators.
Dr Buti said the government had given a copy of the report to the Corruption and Crime Commission, WA Police, the financial crime watchdog AUSTRAC as well as the corporate regulator ASIC.
“It is a privilege to hold a gambling licence in Western Australia and the royal commission has shown that, at times, Crown has abused that privilege.
“Crown needs to do better but the state’s regulator also needs to do better.”
He said some of the first actions his government would take in response to the report included changing legislation to give the minister greater power to direct the casino watchdog, the Gaming and Wagering Commission, to investigate casino operations and appoint an independent chair of the GWC.
Dr Buti said the independent monitor would remain in place for two years, regardless of which company operated the casino, but declined to outline who this person would be or when they would be appointed.
ASX higher, Crown accepts takeover
Crown has accepted a takeover offer from US private equity giant Blackstone Inc, a deal which is subject to approval from gambling regulators.
Other reforms recommended by the report and accepted by the government would be introduced in a staged approach.
“It is clear from the report that the situation in Western Australia is broadly similar to that in New South Wales and Victoria, and there are deficiencies with the casino operator in this state,” he said.
Dr Buti said the government’s focus would be on remediation and said the casino brought significant social and economic benefits to WA, including its taxation revenue paid to the WA Government, its employment of thousands of people and its attraction to tourists.
Crown ‘committed to continuous improvement’
In a statement, Crown Resorts said it acknowledged the report’s findings and recommendations and would “work cooperatively and constructively with the Western Australian government”.
“Significant progress has been made with Crown’s transformation program, the implementation of company-wide reforms, and establishing the highest standards of governance,” Crown Resorts CEO Steve McCann said.
“This includes investment in people, systems, process, culture and a sharp focus on responsible gaming and the prevention of financial crime.
“Crown remains committed to continuous improvement across all facets of the business and is prioritising the delivery of safe and responsible gaming across all of our resorts, including Crown Perth.”
The royal commission’s final report was handed in four months after its original deadline of November 2021, after the deadline was extended at the request of commissioners Neville Owen, Lindy Jenkins and Colin Murphy.
The commission heard from 70 witnesses across 59 days of hearing.