GWC prioritised Crown Perth’s financial interests, inquiry hears

The WA Royal Commission continues investigating Crown Perth.
The WA Royal Commission continues investigating Crown Perth.

The Royal Commission into Crown Perth has heard that Western Australia’s Gaming and Wagering Commission (GWC) put Crown Perth’s financial interest before public interest.

Australia.- During the latest sessions of public hearings, Western Australia’s Royal Commission has heard that the GWC favoured Crown Perth instead of considering what was better for the community when it allowed the casino operator to introduce changes to electronic gaming machines (EGMs).

According to the WA Royal Commission, the GWC let Crown Perth change its EGMs to resemble pokies. Former GWC chair Duncan Ord said that the casino was struggling financially when it approached the gambling regulator in March 2019 and asked for permission to accelerate the machines’ speed.

Ord said the casino operator had made it clear that it was in financial difficulties that could have led to layoffs.

Patricia Cahill SC, the counsel assisting the Royal Commission, stated Crown Perth wanted to increase the speed of EGMs in order to increase similarities with poker machines and increase profits. The Royal Commission has concluded that the regulator didn’t seek the advice of specialists on the potential effects the changes on gambling harm.

Some experts say EGMs can be just as addictive as pokies (slots), which have been banned in Western Australia since 1985. EGMs are only allowed at Crown Perth, which has 2,500 of the machines.

According to financial reports, WA gamblers have spent AU$306m on EGMs this year, up 50 per cent when compared to the previous year. 

The GWC under the spotlight

Western Australia’s Royal Commission into Crown Perth has also analysed how the GWC carried out its duties in relation to Crown’s casino.

In May, Duncan Ord admitted he had no formal training in casino regulation before assuming the role, while former GWC member Barry Sargeant said the regulator lacked policies or procedures for dealing with the risks of criminal activity at Crown Resorts.

Sargeant said GWC would rely on the WA Police and the Australian Federal Police activity despite having the power to order investigations.

The Western Australian Royal Commission into Crown Perth will continue until March 2022.

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