Royal Commission into gambling industry essential off back of Crown revelations - Alliance for Gambling Reform

Royal Commission into gambling industry essential off back of Crown revelations

The Alliance for Gambling Reform says that political and other connections to the gambling industry being revealed through the allegations against Crown Casino make a Royal Commission into the industry essential.

Alliance spokesman Rev Tim Costello says the integrity of the industry is clearly in question, and a microscope in the form of a Royal Commission is needed to uncover the myriad connections to power that are allowing these wrongdoings to occur.

“The fact is that the gambling industry has form when it comes to political interference to feather its nests,” Rev Costello said.

“We are talking everything from donations to political parties from the gambling industry through to the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) and ClubsNSW seeking to influence elections.

“It’s telling that we are not hearing much from either the Labor or Liberal parties on this because both have strong ties to the gambling industry. Both take political donations from the industry, both have former insiders working in the industry now.

“Crown Casino essentially wouldn’t exist without Jeff Kennett and the Liberals, and Daniel Andrews and Labor were the major beneficiaries of $1 million in political donations from the AHA and other pokies-related lobbyists at the state election in Victoria last year.

“Labor even owns poker machine venues in NSW and Canberra! Both major parties have too much skin in the game to be trusted to have the interests of the community at heart ahead of furthering their own political interests. Only a Royal Commission can get to the bottom of this.”

Rev Costello said the Alliance welcomed the Federal Government's order for the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity to conduct an investigation into the Crown allegations, but this would only scratch the surface of the necessary examinations of the gambling industry. 

Rev Costello said the tightening of gambling regulations essential to minimise gambling harm were almost impossible to achieve when both major parties were so beholden to their political donors.

“It is time for the apparent special political and regulatory protection for Crown Resorts and the like to end, with a ban on political donations from the company and the Packer family, and no more hiring of politically-connected figures such as Karl Bitar, Mark Arbib, Helen Coonan and Peta Credlin to protect its interests.

“We cannot minimise gambling harm when operators are not held to account for failing to run their venues according to regulations. Just a few weeks ago NSW club Mounties was fined a pathetic $6,000 for allowing a toddler to “play” on the pokies in one of its venues. What kind of disincentive is that to follow regulations, when they would have paid for the fine in less than 48 minutes of operations?

“Toothless tigers do not work when it comes to gambling regulations.”

Media contact: Rebecca Thorpe: rebecca@agr.org.au or 0491 209 436