Crown faces new probe in WA over suitability to operate Perth casino

Crown faces new probe in WA over suitability to operate Perth casino

Embattled casino group Crown Resorts (ASX: CWN) is now facing the prospect of a fresh inquiry into its business dealings, with the Gaming and Wagering Commission Western Australia formally recommending an independent probe.

The State Solicitor Office has been asked to prepare terms of reference for the inquiry to determining Crown's suitability to hold the licence to operate the Crown Perth casino.

The move follows the damaging findings of the Bergin Report in NSW that determined Crown was unsuitable to be given a licence to operate its new $2.2 billion Barangaroo casino in Sydney.

Among the findings of the inquiry are that a shell company identified as Riverbank had been used to launder money at Crown Perth since 2014.

While GWC commended the work of Patricia Bergin SC and her team's investigation of Crown, it says it cannot rely on those findings to make recommendations in relation to Crown Perth.

"The GWC acknowledges the seriousness of the findings and has been working co-operatively with the Bergin Inquiry since it came to light," GWC says in a statement.

Last night's decision follows a move by WA's chief casino officer Michael Connolly to stand aside due to his social relationship with staff from the legal and compliance team at Crown Perth. Connolly has been replaced by Mark Beecroft as chief casino officer.

In the meantime, the GWC also determined that it prepare to ratify directions under the Casino Control Act 1984 to prohibit junket operations at Crown Perth and to require Crown to obtain the commission's approval to establish gaming bank accounts. This is expected to be ratified at GWC's meeting on February 23.

The terms of reference for the WA inquiry will seek 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.

Crown says it will fully co-operate with the inquiry as it engages with the GWC on its reform agenda.

"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," says Crown chair Helen Coonan.

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