Impact of problem gambling at Perth Casino comes under question

By Ethan Anderson Updated
Perth Casino royal commission draws to a close

The Perth Casino royal commission has heard from a former financial regulator overseeing operations at Crown Perth. reports that a key focus of recent days of the inquiry was the efficacy of oversight by Western Australia’s Gaming and Wagering Commission.

Former board member Trevor Fisher faced the inquiry, having worked at the GWC between 2012 and 2017, but with no prior experience with regulating gambling.

The probe is the third faced by Crown over its money laundering scandal, the first being 2020’s lengthy NSW inquiry, which left Crown without a gaming licence for its new Sydney venue.

Mr Fisher accessed counsel assisting Kala Campbell of “coming across too heavy” when she asked if it would have been better if the body had done more to protect gamblers from harm.

“I haven’t had a personal effect from any friends or family, but I’ve just seen what it can do to outside families in the way of broken homes and abuse and down that line,” Mr Fisher said.

He said he was generally aware harm minimisation duties were part of the role of the GWC and while it was a required task under the relevant act, that had not been pointed out to him.

Gambling not as big of a problem in Perth – former regulator 

Mr Fisher agreed harm minimisation was important, aiming to avoid “banks foreclosing, losing homes, broken homes, kids on the street”.

“Seeing these sections of the GWC Act now, Mr Fisher, do you think it would have been better for those to have been brought to your attention when you started with the GWC?” Ms Campbell asked.

He replied: “Undoubtedly.”

Mr Fisher also agreed it would have been better if the regulator had relied on more up-to-date data about problem gambling.

But he also agreed one of the reasons he believed it wasn’t a big issue in WA was a 1999 Productivity Commission report showing there was not a high prevalence of problem gambling in the state.

The other key reason was: “We’ve only got gaming machines here at Burswood, they’re not scattered all over the country like the east coast.”

“You’re coming across to me to say that gambling is a huge, huge, huge problem,” Mr Fisher said.

“I don’t know if it is a huge, huge, huge problem…I think you’re coming across too heavy.”

Ms Campbell replied: “OK, so do you think the GWC did enough?”

“Yes,” Mr Fisher responded.

Gambling is restricted in WA, with Crown the only casino.

Pokies are prohibited elsewhere and cruise ships are only allowed to operate on-board gaming when they are more than 12 nautical miles off the coast.

The royal commission was told that the number of electronic gaming machines at Crown Perth had jumped from 200 in 1985 to 2500 by 2012.

“Because there’s more machines doesn’t mean there’s more gamblers,” Mr Fisher said.

The findings of a now-complete, separate royal commission in Victoria are expected by October 15, and commissioner Ray Finkelstein has indicated he’s prepared to strip the company of its Melbourne licence if deemed necessary.

Findings from the Perth probe will be handed down in late 2021.

In recent days, the chief casino offer at Crown Perth was quizzed over his relationship with its compliance boss.

Former head of compliance Paul Hulme gave evidence about his relationship with long-time friend and former chief casino officer Michael Connolly, to dispel any suggestion of a conflict of interest.

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