Crown On line casino Perth inquiry advisable by WA regulator after NSW report was destroyed


The Western Australian Gaming Authority has recommended that the McGowan government conduct an independent investigation into Crown's eligibility to hold the state's only casino license.

Important points:

  • WA's Gaming and Wagering Commission is proposing the investigation
  • It wants to assess Crown Perth's suitability as a casino operator
  • The proposed investigation would have the powers of a royal commission

The recommendation came after an urgent meeting of the Gaming and Wagering Commission (GWC), which was also attended by WA Police Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch.

It comes after last week's damning report on the gambling giant, which described years of money laundering by Crown Perth and the resignation of the state's chief casino officer over social relationships with members of the Crown Perth legal and compliance team.

Advice from the prosecutor on the results of the Bergin investigation in New South Wales was taken into account at the meeting on Tuesday evening.

Crown operates Perth's only casino, but it is under increasing scrutiny. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

In a statement issued after the meeting, the GWC said it would attempt an independent investigation as it was unable to make any determinations regarding Crown Perth based on the NSW investigation.

"The GWC recognizes the seriousness of the results and has been working cooperatively with the Bergin investigation since it became known," it said.

The commission said it also considered responses to Crown Resorts' request at the meeting.

Reasons for the investigation detailed

The GWC said it would officially recommend setting up an independent investigation, led by the Minister for Racing, Games and Alcohol, Paul Papalia.

The GWC wishes to investigate "how appropriately" Crown Perth responded before and during the NSW investigation. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

The commission hoped the investigation would determine:

  • Crown Perth's eligibility to own WA's only casino gaming license
  • The suitability of "close co-workers"
  • How appropriately Crown Perth responded to the GWC before and during the Bergin investigation
  • How effective the GWC and the Department of Local Government, Sports and Culture were in carrying out their duties, and
  • Any legislative change or regulatory review that addresses issues raised by the Bergin investigation.

"By recommending that the minister lead the GWC, he will ensure that the investigation has the powers of a royal commission as opposed to the general powers of an investigation by the GWC," it said.

The commission also said it would seek to ratify instructions at its next meeting that would require commission approval to open casino accounts and ban "junket operations" in Crown Perth.

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"The last junket from mainland China to Crown Perth was November 2016, the last from Hong Kong was August 2019, and the last from Macau was March 2020," it said.

"At the December 2020 GWC meeting, the commissioners noted that Crown has ceased operations and closed the Riverbank account."

The Bergin investigation found that the Riverbank account had been used to launder money in Crown Perth since at least 2014.

Mark Beecroft becomes Chief Casino Officer

Tuesday evening's meeting also confirmed that Mark Beecroft would take on the role of chief casino officer after Michael Connolly "volunteered to step down" after asking questions about his social relationship with Crown employees.

"At the October 2020 GWC meeting, Mr. Connolly made a formal declaration of interest based on his personal connections with Crown Perth employees," the statement said.

"At today's meeting, the Chairman advised the GWC on the due diligence he has taken as Director General to ensure that the declaration of conflict of interest has not affected the regulation of Crown Perth Casino.

"At the GWC meeting in November 2020 it was decided to commission an independent performance audit … into the supervision that GWC assumed during the period of the Bergin investigation."

The exam should be completed by the end of the month.