WA government maintains control of casino regulator appointments

Crown Perth in Western Australia

Despite concerns voiced by a royal commission, Racing and Gaming Minister Reece Whitby has said that the Western Australian government retains “the responsibility” to make decisions on who sits on the state’s casino regulatory body.

He said this on Thursday while presenting the government’s official response to the commission’s inquiry. The Royal Commission last year looked into the operations of Crown Perth and found the company unsuitable to retain a casino license.

The investigation revealed that Crown was involved in money laundering at the casino and had not established adequate systems to identify potentially suspicious transactions. In addition, the investigation found that Crown allowed junkets linked to criminal syndicates to conduct business at the Burswood complex.

The inquiry revealed that some members of the Gaming and Wagering Commission (GWC) lacked experience in regulating casinos and also had close relationships with Crown staff. The regulator also chose not to investigate allegations of money laundering against Crown, as the company’s influential former legal head dismissed the allegations as a media fabrication.

Whitby said the government supported 49 of the royal commission’s 59 recommendations in full, another eight in principle and one in part. One of those was GWC’s complaint that it was being sidelined in the appointment of members to the commission.

The government has now given partial support to the commission to form a “nominations committee” to oversee appointments. The body was also supported to create a “skills matrix” that will outline qualities needed in board members. However, Whitby┬ámaintained it was the right of the government to have a final say on such appointments.

Meanwhile, the state government has raised the non-compliance fine for casino operators to up to $100 million. The maximum penalty for non-compliance with GWC directives was also hiked up to $250,000. Additionally, the establishment of an independent monitor’s office has been announced with the appointment of Paul Steel, a former assistant police commissioner, to the position.

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