Following revelations of questionable anti-money laundering practices in an ongoing review into The Star Entertainment Group (ASX: SGR) in NSW and several inquiries into Crown Resorts (ASX: CWN), the Queensland Government has announced tougher gambling laws with penalties of up to $50 million for operators that misbehave.
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Shannon Fentiman claimed the proposed reforms in the Casino Control and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 would help prevent criminal influence and exploitation in casinos and are in response to recent inquiries into casinos by other states.
"This bill will ensure Queenslanders can have confidence in the integrity of our casino laws,” the Attorney-General said.
"These reforms seek to address concerns which have emerged from the public inquiries into casinos operated by Crown Resorts in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia, as well as investigations underway into the Star Entertainment Group.
"As a result of the changes, there will be significant pecuniary penalties as a disciplinary action of up to $50 million."
This compares to the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission's (VGCCC) announcement last month it would increase fines for gambling industry infractions to up to $100 million.
Further changes to the legislation may be considered at the conclusion of the current NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) review into Star's suitability to hold a casino licence in Sydney. The casino and resort company has operations on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane, where it is also building the $3.6 billion Queen's Wharf development.
The Star acknowledged the legislative reforms in an ASX announcement late yesterday afternoon, stating it was reviewing the bill and the potential implications for its Queensland operations, noting it remained subject to the usual consultation and parliamentary processes
"These reforms are considered to be examples of best practice casino regulation and will be in place before the opening of the new casino at Queen’s Wharf to be operated by The Star," Fentiman said.
The Attorney-General said the bill would also include changes that will help deliver the Government’s commitment to transition to safe cashless gaming.
“The Palaszczuk Government made a commitment to transition to safe cashless gaming and during the pandemic we saw the use of cash decline as industries moved to non-cash options,” she said.
“Moving towards more traceable electronic transactions was also a recommendation of the Finkelstein Inquiry into the Crown Casino to prevent money laundering.
“This bill will modernise Queensland’s gambling legislation to allow new payment methods and systems to be considered for use, provided they are safe and reliable.
Fentiman said the amendments would not only provide the government with the flexibility to consider new and innovative approaches to gaming, but would also ensure that emergent technology can be subjected to appropriate controls in order to address potential risks.
"We will also ensure that we can maintain our strong gambling harm minimisation measures," she said.
The Bill also introduces changes for charities and not-for-profits by introducing a mutual recognition scheme for fundraising approvals in Queensland.
Charities registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission and that notify the Office of Fair Trading can be deemed a registered charity in Queensland, and can fundraise in Queensland.
Charities that are not registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission may still seek registration directly from the Office of Fair Trading, and will no longer have to await the conclusion of a 28-day objections period before their applications are finalised.
“These changes are part of the government’s ongoing work to reduce regulatory burdens for charities and Queensland will continue to work with the other states and territories to deliver further national harmonisation of fundraising laws," Fentiman said.
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