A suite of measures to reform the tarnished NSW gaming industry have been unveiled as Crown’s Sydney flagship casino finally gets the go-ahead to open.
The reforms announced by Hospitality and Racing Minister Kevin Anderson coincided with the NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority approving gaming operations inside Crown Sydney’s Barangaroo complex.
The NSW reforms stem from the Bergin inquiry into Crown that made 19 recommendations to improve transparency and accountability for casino operators and clamp down on organised crime and money laundering risks.
Mr Anderson said the government would introduce “tough new measures” to parliament.
“These reforms will ensure the people of NSW have confidence that casino operations are free from criminal influence,” he said on Wednesday.
The legislation is not expected to be introduced until August.
The centrepiece of the reform will be the establishment of the NSW Independent Casino Commission, which will have enhanced and wide-ranging compliance and enforcement powers likely to extend beyond the existing powers of the existing authority.
The Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority is conducting a separate inquiry, helmed by Adam Bell SC, into whether casino rival Star Entertainment is suitable to retain the licence for its Sydney casino.
The inquiry heard evidence of foreign junket operators with likely organised crime links being allowed to do business through the casino.
Casinos will be banned from dealing with junket operators under the reforms.
The new commission will appoint an independent auditor and monitor for every casino licence holder, and casinos will be required to submit suspicious activity reports to both the authority and federal financial transactions watchdog AUSTRAC.
Casinos will also be required to monitor patrons’ accounts for suspected criminal activity and identify the source of their funds before allowing them to gamble.
“Anything less than 100 per cent compliance will not be tolerated,” Mr Anderson said.
He announced the reforms the same day the authority announced conditional approval for Crown to open gaming operations at its Sydney casino.
Gaming authority chair Phillip Crawford said the casino had new owners and had rebuilt its gaming model to provide structural change as well as reforming its corporate culture and governance.
The authority will consider Crown’s suitability for up to two years before granting formal licence approval.
US private equity giant Blackstone has been given the go-ahead to take over Crown, with billionaire James Packer to exit the business.
Opposition treasury spokesman Daniel Mookhey said he expected ILGA to have placed the utmost scrutiny on Crown before making the decision.
“We will now judge them according to their results,” Mr Mookhey said.
Independent upper house MP Justin Field said the government should have enacted the legislation it was yet to introduce to parliament before Crown was allowed to open.
“While I acknowledge (Mr) Crawford has taken reform at Crown seriously, the current Star inquiry and reports of substantial money laundering through poker machines in NSW clubs and pubs reveals substantial regulatory failures in gambling,” Mr Field said.
“The existing legislative and regulatory regime is simply not fit for purpose to identify and prevent money laundering by organised crime.”