NSW to create independent regulator in Bergin Inquiry casino reforms

| By Conor Mulheir
The government of New South Wales (NSW), Australia has agreed to support all 19 recommendations on the regulation of casinos in the state from the Bergin Inquiry Report into Crown released in February this year.

The main recommendation to be followed up on by the government is that the Independent Casino Commission (ICC) be established as an independent, standalone, specialist casino regulator, followed by a series of legislative reforms aimed at preventing criminal activity related to casino operations.

“The NSW Government response to the Bergin Inquiry will see a redesigned regulatory structure for casinos in NSW, with a clearer focus on addressing money laundering risks inherently associated with casino activities,” said Victor Dominello, minister for digital and customer service in NSW.

“It is critical the management and operation of casinos in NSW are free from criminal influence and exploitation. Committing to implement the 19 recommendations from Justice Bergin’s report is an important first step in the process of reforming the casino sector.”

Dominello said the new casino regulator would be subject to detailed design work and funded via the casino supervisory levy.

“In addition, we will continue to monitor the current casino Royal Commissions in Victoria and Western Australia and consider any proposals for regulatory reform recommended by those inquiries, including stronger gambling harm minimisation measures,” he concluded.

Other recommendations made by the Inquiry include an amendment to the Casino Control Act requiring each casino operator to engage an independent compliance auditor approved by the ICC, to report annually on the operator’s compliance with its obligations.

The Inquiry also recommended requiring operators to monitor patron accounts and perform heightened customer due diligence, prohibiting casino operators from dealing with junket operators, and the introduction of an amendment stating that a person may not acquire, hold or transfer an interest of 10% or more in a licensed operator without prior approval of the ICC.

The state’s Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority continues to assess the suitability of Crown Resorts to hold a NSW restricted gaming facility licence, and will be responsible for determining the circumstances in which the operator’s Sydney gaming facility is permitted to open.

Crown was deemed unsuitable to operate its casino at Barangaroo in central Sydney in February, after an inquiry found evidence that its facilities and accounts were used for money laundering, in addition to engaging with junket operators with alleged connections to organised crime. Currently, it operates a hotel at the Barangaroo location, but has yet to launch gaming operations there.

This week, the Authority also invited the public to provide feedback on the impact of its 2018 gaming machine reforms, which capped machine numbers in high-risk communities and introduced a leasing scheme encouraging small venues to remove gaming machines.

“These areas were capped three years ago to ensure no additional machines could be moved into these areas, and we want to see how effective they have been in reducing gambling harms,” said executive director of policy and strategy for the better regulation division, John Tansey.

“The NSW Government is keen to hear from the community, so we are conducting a survey to help inform our evaluation. We will also be inviting venue operators with GMEs to complete a separate online survey.”

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