Crown Resorts Investigation in Western Australia Finds Regulator Lax in Controls

Posted on: February 1, 2022, 07:04h. 

Last updated on: February 1, 2022, 12:13h.

Western Australia’s (WA) investigation into Crown Resorts’ history in the state is wrapping up. During the closing days of testimony, the gaming regulator admitted it could have done more to control the casino operator.

Crown Perth
Crown Perth in Western Australia lit up at night. A royal commission in the state will determine if Crown Resorts will be able to continue operating the casino. (Image: Pharos Controls)

The majority of the grilling of public officials and Crown Resorts in WA concluded late last year. However, there was still some closure needed. That has been found, but the royal commission also uncovered issues with WA’s semi-formal gaming regulator.

In WA, the Gaming and Wagering Commission (GWC) is in charge of overseeing gaming. This also covers Crown’s Crown Perth casino. The agency is comprised of seven members and is supported by WA’s Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries (DLGSCI).

The GWC, though, is only a part-time outfit. It meets monthly, providing generic scrutiny of gaming operations. This opens the door for many issues to be inadvertently overlooked. It also means that board members can be lax in their oversight.

GWC Out of Touch with Reality

The commission determined, by testimony given by the GWC and others, that the regulator had initially ignored the allegations of money laundering for which Crown has now been lambasted across Australia. It acknowledged that a well-placed and “persuasive” legal executive downplayed the accusations. The GWC took him at his word and brushed off the allegations as well.

Not even the fact that a former WA chief casino officer mingling with Crown executives on fishing trips was enough to raise red flags. This, despite the fact that New South Wales (NSW) and other Australian states were diving into the Crown quagmire to figure out what was really happening.

The GWC is making amends, though. Its lawyer, Fiona Seaward, said during the inquiry, “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 organization involved in regulation.”

Crown Execs to Provide Additional Comments

Crown will still be put on the hot seat over the next few days. Undoubtedly, Crown will lean on the GWC’s testimony as a crutch to try to gain sympathy.

Crown already lost its license in NSW, and was put on probation in Victoria. In an effort not to be penalized more following the conclusion of the WA inquiry, Crown’s legal team is trying to garner support.

The company has already made major changes at the top, with almost the entire board and executive team being replaced. Crown’s attorney, Kanaga Dharmananda SC, added that Crown has “embarked on a significant program” to put the company on track.

Dharmananda added that Crown has implemented the programs “at great financial cost.” This made it sound as if it should be commended for its efforts. If Crown had developed the programs years ago when it was supposed to, it wouldn’t be in the position it’s in now.

Among those still to provide closing remarks is Crown founder and former boss, James Packer. He has already acknowledged a number of missteps during his tenure. However, since leaving he has, according to certain reports, had little to do with the day-to-day operations of the company.

The royal commission will present its final report in about a month.