Queensland casino regulator accused of inaction

The Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation (OLGR) is responsible for overseeing Queensland casinos.
The Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation (OLGR) is responsible for overseeing Queensland casinos.

A whistleblower has accused the regulator of failing to deter, prevent and detect serious crime occurring at Queensland casinos.

Australia.- The Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation (OLGR), the state government body responsible for overseeing Queensland’s four casinos, is in the spotlight after a whistleblower accused the regulator of being “asleep at the wheel”.

The state of Queensland has four casinos: The Star Gold Coast, Brisbane’s Treasury Casino, Townsville’s The Ville Resort-Casino and Cairns’ The Reef Hotel Casino. However, it’s claimed that there has been a lack of regulatory enforcement action in the past five years.

A source claiming to have inside knowledge of the casino industry told ABC: “The Queensland regulator has clearly failed to deter, prevent and detect serious crime occurring in Queensland casinos and it’s failed to protect vulnerable people from harm associated with gambling.

“So far with all of these inquiries occurring nationally, the public attention has been on the casino operators and their terrible behaviour. The reality is that a culture that breeds that terrible behaviour can only thrive in a weak regulatory environment.”

Only one successful prosecution was made by the regulator. This was the case of an employee from The Ville Resort Casino, who pleaded guilty and was fined AU$800 for fraud under the Casino Control Act. But no casino operator has been fined under the Casino Control Act, and only two infringement notices have been issued to operators under the Liquor Act in 2021.

In an independent expert review into the suitability of The Star to continue to hold casino licences in Queensland, Geoff Hogg, Star’s former chief executive officer, said at the time that the casino operator had not been prosecuted or had fines imposed in relation to minor breaches.

The whistleblower said that after the announcement of the review, the attorney general advised that even if the report found The Star unsuitable to hold a licence, there were mechanisms to allow it to continue operating.

They stressed: “That sends a clear message that the operators are too big to fail, and if that’s the case, then how can the regulator and their staff pursue real change within the casino industry and pursue real penalties?”

Tim Costello, the chief advocate at the Alliance for Gambling Reform (AGR), described Queensland as “the wild wild west”. He said: “There have been no fines, there have been no sanctions, there has been no action. This is a complete farce in Queensland.

“When you see how aggressive the gambling industry is, the level of its donations to both sides of politics — it’s lobbying, it’s bullying and the lack of a regulator actually enforcing sanction or imposing fines just proves what a joke this is. You realise this is a completely lawless state.”

In August, the Alliance for Gambling Reform called on Queensland to widen its inquiry into The Star Entertainment Group to other casino operators. However, attorney-general and minister for justice Shannon Fentiman rejected the call. Queensland’s Parliament will soon debate new laws to strengthen its casino regulator, including the option of a pecuniary penalty of up to $50m.

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GAMBLING REGULATION The Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation