A major inquiry into allegations of money laundering at Crown could take up to four months, according to Racing and Gaming Minister Paul Papalia.
The Gaming and Wagering Commission of Western Australia is expected to formally notify Mr Papalia this afternoon of its recommendation to establish an independent inquiry with the same powers as a Royal Commission.
Last night, the commission recommended that the state launch the inquiry to establish Crown Perth’s suitability as a casino gaming licence operator in Western Australia, its close associates, the effectiveness of the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries in the discharge of its regulatory responsibilities, and any perceived conflicts of interest.
The decision comes just days after the state government convened an urgent meeting to consider the findings of a report, undertaken by independent commissioner Patricia Bergin, which accused Crown of laundering money through subsidiaries' bank accounts at its Perth and Melbourne operations.
The Department of Local Government Sport and Cultural Industries ordered the state solicitor to assess the report and provide advice before a meeting of the commission to consider the findings.
The state solicitor concluded that the commission could not legally rely upon, nor could it take action on, the Bergin inquiry on Crown Perth’s operations as it was the inquiry of another jurisdiction. Some of those findings have remained confidential.
Mr Papalia has already endorsed the recommendation and, during a press conference today, stressed that the state government was determined to ensure that any illegality was exposed and prevented from happening in the future.
He also said he would like to see the inquiry be as transparent as possible, but acknowledged it was likely that parts of it may remain confidential.
The degree to which the inquiry unfolds publicly will be determined by the independent enquirers based on advice from the state solicitor.
Premier Mark McGowan said the state inquiry would make sure Crown was clean and, if necessary, take action, while also ensuring its 5,500 WA-based staff kept their jobs.
At this stage, a budget for the inquiry has not yet been set.