Already under fire, the Gaming and Wagering Commission (GWC), the regulatory body responsible for overseeing gambling in Western Australia, this week faced further backlash as the Crown Perth Royal Commission heard the regulator had not performed money laundering checks at the Crown Perth Casino! Arguably the most scandalous revelation to come out of the Royal Commission’s probe, this finding further highlights the shortcomings of a regulator already shown as unfit for purpose.
Under questioning by the Royal Commission, former chair of the GWC, Barry Sargeant revealed that although the regulatory commission was aware of potential money laundering and criminal infiltration at the Crown Perth, the Australian casino under the scrutiny of the Royal Commission, that the GWC never carried out any checks. Sargeant claimed the GWC lacked the resources and skills to handle the potential criminal risks and instead relied on other agencies to inform the regulatory body of any criminal activity.
The GWC left it to the Western Australia Police, Australian Federal Police, and the government’s financial intelligence agency, Austrac to inform them of criminal activity, despite having the power to instruct the Police Commissioner to investigate any potential risks.
The inadequacies of the GWC have been laid bare throughout the probe into the regulators handling of the Australian casino, with us reporting just a few days ago, that the Crown Perth Royal Commission had already heard that many GWC staff lacked the necessary casino industry experience for their positions.
The purpose of the Crown Perth Royal Commission was to review the activities at Crown Perth Casino after a probe by the Bergin Inquiry uncovered money laundering and other criminal activities that had taken place within Crown. That inquiry initially began as an assessment of Crown’s suitability to hold a license for a new casino resort in Barangaroo, Sydney. This inquiry concluded a strong possibility that hundreds of millions had been laundered through the Crown Perth Casino.
Crown Perth Royal Commission to Review Potential Conflicts of Interest
Following on from revelations earlier in the review that Michael Connelly, the Chief Casino Officer of the Western Australia Gaming and Wagering Commission, had enjoyed fishing trips with a senior executive of Crown Resorts for over years, the Royal Commission heard that Sargeant may have had a conflict of interests too.
The Royal Commission heard that Sargeant, who for over 25 years, had the responsibility of overseeing the regulation of Crown Perth, had travelled to Macau in 2013, a trip requested and paid by Crown. Sargeant claims the purpose of the trip was to give him a better understanding of the Asian market, as the Chinese market was a part of the strategy used in the development of the Crown Towers Hotel on the Burswood Peninsula in Perth. This trip interests the Royal Commission, as Crown required the permission of the Western Australia government for that development.
The commission has also heard that Crown has employed a number of GWC representatives after leaving their positions. This is another cause of concern and confirms the possibility of a conflict of interest between the regulatory authority and Crown.