Crown’s house of cards continues to shake

February 17, 2021
By Ioni Doherty

The Gaming and Wagering Commission of Western Australia (GWC) will set up an independent inquiry with the powers of a royal commission following matters uncovered by the Bergin report and relating to the operations of Crown Perth.

Western Australia’s racing and gaming minister Paul Papalia endorsed the recommendation on Tuesday, suggesting it should be enacted as soon as possible with all the power it needed.

As with Barangaroo, Crown Perth’s suitability as a casino gaming license operator in Western Australia will be investigated as will the close association between Crown Perth and the GWC itself.

Last Friday Western Australia’s chief casino regulator, Michael “Mick” Connolly, stood aside following revelations of his friendship with senior members of Crown’s legal and compliance team.

Connolly is the deputy director general of the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, and was the chief casino officer under WA’s casino control legislation.

The chief casino officer, is tasked with granting or refusing licences, and approving key casino staff members.

The GWC statement said: “In consideration that there should be no perception of a conflict of interest, Mr Connolly volunteered to step aside from his role as chief casino officer effective immediately.

Mark Beecroft assumed the role to assist the GWC with its response to the inquiry report.

The last junket from mainland China to Crown Perth from Macau in March 2020. At the December 2020 GWC meeting, the Commissioners noted this as well as the closure of the Riverbank account which the Bergin inquiry uncovered had been used to facilitate to money laundering.

Crown has pledged its full cooperation with the inquiry. Crown’s Executive Chair, Helen Coonan said: “Crown is determined to play a constructive role with all of its regulators as it works to restore public and
regulatory confidence in its operations.”

In its request to the State Solicitor’s Office to prepare the terms of reference, GWC seeks to establish:

  • the suitability of Crown Perth as a casino gaming license operator in WA in light of the findings of the Bergin report
  • the suitability of close associates
  • the appropriateness of Crown Perth’s responses to the GWC prior to and during the Bergin Inquiry
  • the effectiveness of the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries and the GWC in the discharge of its regulatory responsibilities inclusive of any perceived conflicts of interest and,
  • recommendations on potential legislative amendments or regulatory controls that will address strategic risks identified in the Bergin Inquiry.

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