Queensland proposes increasing casino penalties to AU$50m

| By Robert Fletcher
The Queensland government has proposed tightening laws for land-based casinos in the Australian state including raising maximum penalties to AU$50m (£28m/€33m/US$35m).

The Casino Control and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 includes a series of reforms that Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Shannon Fentiman said would help prevent criminal influence and exploitation in casinos.

Fentiman said the proposed bill comes in response to recent inquiries into casinos by other states, with both Crown Resorts and Star Entertainment Group having faced investigations over the activities. 

“This Bill will ensure Queenslanders can have confidence in the integrity of our casino laws,” Fentiman 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.

“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.”

Other proposals in the bill include changes to help deliver the Queensland government’s commitment to transition to safe cashless gaming, with legislation to be updated to allow new payment methods and systems to be considered for use at casinos.

Fentiman said the bill would also seek to improve gambling harm minimisation measures in the state, allowing the government to consider “new and innovative” approaches to help protect players from gambling-related harm.

In addition, the bill addresses charities and not-for-profits, introducing a mutual recognition scheme for fundraising approvals in Queensland.

Charities registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission and notify the Office of Fair Trading can be deemed a registered charity in Queensland, and therefore fundraise in the state.

Those charities not registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission may still seek registration directly from the Office of Fair Trading but 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.

Fentiman added that further changes to the legislation may be considered at the conclusion of current investigations into the Star Entertainment Group.

Star is currently the subject of an inquiry by the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority. The review into Star launched in June last year amid accusations that the operator knowingly worked with junkets that had ties to criminal groups and that its anti-money laundering measures were insufficient.

Allegations raised so far at the headings include senior managers employed at the Star Sydney casino purposely deceiving regulators over illegal cash transactions in a junket room and were aware these breached money laundering rules.

When allegations of anti-money laundering failings and ties to organised crime against the venue were first raised, Star responded by calling the claims “misleading”.

Meanwhile, In February 2021, Crown was deemed unsuitable to operate a casino in Barangaroo, Sydney, after an investigation uncovered evidence of money laundering in its facilities.

Later in the year Crown was also ruled as unsuitable to operate a casino in Victoria, with an investigation ruling that Crown had engaged in “illegal, dishonest, unethical and exploitative” conduct.

Similarly, in February 2022, Crown was found to be ineligible to operate its casino in Perth.

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