05/03/2021 - 09:00

Royal commission launched over Crown allegations

05/03/2021 - 09:00

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The state will launch a royal commission to determine whether Crown Perth should keep its casino licence following allegations of money laundering at Crown Resorts.

Royal commission launched over Crown allegations
Paul Papalia has announced a royal commission into Crown Perth. Photo: Attila Csaszar

The state will launch a royal commission to determine whether Crown Perth should keep its casino licence following allegations of money laundering and junkets linked to organised crime at Crown Resorts

Three commissioners have been appointed, including former Supreme Court judge Neville Owen, former Supreme Court judge Lindy Jenkins, and former auditor general Colin Murphy.

During a press conference this morning, Racing and Gaming Minister Paul Papalia said the royal commission would be tasked with reviewing the state’s regulatory framework, the functions of the Gaming and Wagering Commission, and providing recommendations for enhancing its regulations.

Mr Papalia confirmed that Crown’s licence would not be suspended during the commission, but that the organisation had already been directed not to hold junkets and that it would need to seek permission before establishing gaming bank accounts.

The royal commission is expected to deliver an interim report in June, with findings and recommendations to be released in November.

A budget for the royal commission had not yet been established, but is estimated to cost about $5 million, Mr Papalia said.

The state’s regulators have also established working groups with their counterparts in the eastern states.

Initially, the state government had announced an inquiry with the powers of a royal commission, but had since received advice from the state solicitor that the commissioner would not have had the protections and immunities of the Royal Commissions Act and that the preferable structure was a royal commission.

Attorney General John Quigley said it was rare for a local government to launch a royal commission during the caretaker period, but that WA Labor had consulted with and gained the support of opposition leader Zak Kirkup.  

The decision comes just weeks after the state government convened an urgent meeting to consider the findings of a report, undertaken by independent commissioner Patricia Bergen, which accused Crown of laundering money through subsidiaries’ bank accounts at its Perth and Melbourne operations. 

The state solicitor concluded that the Gaming and Wagering Commission of Western Australia 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.

Last month, the commission recommended that the state launch an inquiry to establish Crown Perth’s suitability as a casino gaming licence operator, 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 damning report has prompted the resignation of several of Crown’s key board members, including director of Crown Resorts and chairman of Crown Perth John Poynton.

More to come.

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