Money laundering and other allegations end Crown’s reign - what now for Victoria and WA?
9th February 2021
Crown Casino being found unfit to hold a gambling licence in NSW has been described as one of the most extraordinary and extremely welcome shifts ever in Australian gambling reform.
Alliance for Gambling Reform Chief Advocate, the Rev Tim Costello, said Commissioner Patricia Bergin SC had made the right call in recommending Crown Casino be denied a NSW licence.
“The revelations that came out during the Bergin Inquiry were nothing short of astonishing,” Rev Costello said. “The words that come to mind are dodgy, shady and shonky. What a disgrace Crown Casino’s operations in Victoria have been. And where is the interrogation of their Perth operations?
“If the Victorian Government doesn’t follow in the NSW Government’s footsteps and increase the powers of its current inquiry into Crown, then it is shortchanging the people of Victoria. This is not just about money laundering, which is bad enough. We’re talking about the licensing of an addictive product, one with serious implications for public health. That deserves proper scrutiny with the level of powers that Patricia Bergin was granted.”
It was now time for thorough consideration to be given to stripping Crown of its licences in Victoria and Western Australia, Rev Costello said.
“The fact is that this ruling against Crown has been made in NSW, off the back of the appalling revelations surrounding the impropriety occurring at Crown in Melbourne,” he said.
“How can they possibly continue to operate in Victoria and WA unfettered? The people of Victoria and WA deserve to have Crown interrogated to the same extent as they were in NSW, where they weren’t even operating yet! The arrogance and impunity with which Crown has operated in Victoria has to come to an end. Minister of the Crown in Victoria has had multiple meanings for decades, it must end.
“I back Commissioner Bergin’s recommendations for a truly independent, robust Casino Commission with the powers of a Royal Commission and the ability to overrule any deal a government makes. This gets to the root of the problem in NSW and around the country - the regulators have become too cozy with Crown. This change would also put Sydney’s Star Casino under the microscope.”
Rev Costello said he was especially pleased to see reference to NSW’s proposed cashless gambling card in Commissioner Bergin’s report, where she called it “a powerful mechanism to assist in combating money laundering”.
“The proposed cashless gambling card goes a long way to limiting the laundering of money via poker machines, something that has long been an open secret,” he said. “Even academic reports highlight poker machines and how effective they are as money laundering tools. There are video recordings of Crown accepting shopping bags full of cash for laundering.
“This has implications not just for the casino industry, but also for the mini-casinos that are seemingly on every populated corner in NSW -- I’m talking about pubs and clubs with poker machines.
“Every day in poker machine venues around NSW, hundreds of thousands of dollars are put into machines and very quickly cashed out, minus a few dollars, cleaning drug money and other proceeds of crime, not only legitimising crime, but costing forgone tax dollars on other black money.”
Additionally, Rev Costello said it was imperative proposed changes to poker machine legislation and regulations in NSW were passed when they are introduced, hopefully next month.
“This is a watershed moment in NSW, with real momentum towards gambling reform,” he said.
“We all benefit from gambling reform, not just people affected by gambling harm. Our community benefits from reduced public health issues, and our local economies benefit too.”
Media contact: Rebecca Thorpe on 0491 209 436 or [email protected]
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