Perth Casino royal commission draws to a close

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

The Western Australian Gaming and Wagering Commission has urged a “no sympathy” approach from the royal commission looking into Crown Perth’s fitness to hold a casino licence in the state.

The Australian reports commissioners are investigating whether poor government oversight contributed to issues at Crown Perth including money laundering and problem gambling.

During closing submissions, counsel for the Gaming and Wagering Commission Paul Evansa said the seven part-time board members received “very limited remuneration” and relied on the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries.

“GWC urges no sympathy for Crown or any past or present Crown officer,” he said.

“Nor indeed, regrettably, to the extent that it may be necessary, and only if it’s necessary, departmental officers or former members of the commission.”

During her closing remarks, counsel for the department Fiona Seaward outlined an overhaul of the processes and said it was also examining its code of conduct.

“The department has accepted, and accepts today, that its historical management of conflicts of interest was not of the standard expected of a modern public sector organisation involved in regulation,” she said.

“The department has taken a number of steps to address this issue.”

Government department accepts past failings

Ms Seaward also revealed WA did not have a permanent chief casino officer, but executive-director Jennifer Shelton would be appointed.

Crown’s counsel Kanaga Dharmanada said during his closing submissions that the company had made significant changes including overhauling its board and executive team.

“As Victorian royal commissioner Ray Finkelstein acknowledged, Crown has, at great financial cost, embarked on a significant program led by people of goodwill and skill,” he said.

“Commissioner Finkelstein accepted that important steps towards reform have been taken and that the program is likely to succeed.

“He concluded in relation to Crown Melbourne that it has the will and capacity to reform itself.

“Those assessments, with respect, are also relevant to Crown Perth, particularly as a result of the significant reforms which have already been implemented.

“It has allocated significant resources to the remediation project and has already made significant progress under new leadership.”

Counsel for Crown’s major shareholder James Packer will give his closing submissions on Wednesday.

The royal commission’s report is due on March 4.

The Bergin inquiry in NSW in 2020 found Crown had “enabled or facilitated” money laundering at its Perth and Melbourne casinos.

In light of the damning findings, Crown was denied a gaming licence for its new Sydney casino, where only non-gaming operations have been underway since the lavish venue’s opening at the end of that year.

But the company clung onto its Melbourne licence on a two-year effective “probation” basis after the Victorian royal commission in 2021.

Culture review raises concerns

Crown Resorts’ Perth casino has undergone a culture review that has discovered a large number of staff feel they could be penalised for raising concerns to management.

The review has underpinned some of the ongoing cultural issues plaguing the under fire casino operator.

The review will likely raise the concern of Crown’s board and new chief executive officer Steve McCann, who are attempting to spearhead a cultural overhaul of the group.

A major of surveyed Perth employees said they believed Crown’s directors do not “consistently behave in accordance with Crown’s values.”

The observations come in an expert report on a recent cultural review of Crown undertaken by Deloitte that was prepared for the Perth casino royal commission.

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