Gambling with credit and banned patrons common at Crown Perth
Gambling with credit was a common practice for both international and Australian gamblers at Crown Perth, despite the practice being illegal.
ABC reports that the embattled casino also allowed a notorious brothel owner, who has been investigated for human trafficking to enter its casino 29 times after he was banned from Crown Melbourne.
While giving evidence to the Perth casino royal commission, Crown Perth chief executive Lonnie Bossi said this happened because until recently, the information could not be shared between the two casinos.
“What’s stopping Crown Melbourne picking up the phone or sending an email that says Mr John Smith ought to be barred from Crown Perth full stop?” counsel assisting the royal commission Patricia Cahill asked.
Mr Bossi said while that would happen today, “there wasn’t a requirement to do that at the time.”
Mr Bossi, who was the casino’s operations manager from 2011 until being appointed chief executive in December, told the royal commission he approved credit to gamblers.
Under WA’s Gaming and Wagering Commission Act, the casino is not allowed to provide credit for gambling.
Not only did Crown Perth given credit to gamblers, it also planned to roll out a China UnionPay system, involving a Chinese credit card that Chinese gamblers could use to transfer money to the casino and with the approval of the gambling watchdog.
But the royal commission heard the Crown Perth plan did not go ahead because of the 2016 arrests of Crown staff in China.
The commission was told that earlier that year, former Crown legal boss Joshua Preston had written to WA’s chief casino officer Michael Connolly about making an amendment to the Crown Perth casino manual to allow China UnionPay transactions.
Ms Cahill said the casino watchdog, the Gaming and Wagering Commission, was approached about changing the manual and later approved the amendments in May 2016.
Mr Bossi said he was not involved in the submission, had not engaged in “a lack of candour” in dealings with the casino watchdog and his investigations had not uncovered any CUP transactions at Crown Perth.
The commission was told Mr Bossi was a signatory on the Riverbank bank account, which the Bergin inquiry found was used to allegedly launder hundreds of millions of dollars.
Problem gambling in the spotlight
Another focus of the recent questioning at the royal commission was how Crown Perth met its responsibilities to mitigate problem gambling.
Problem gamblers account for a significant proportion of Crown Perth’s revenue from electronic gaming machines, the inquiry was told.
The royal commission was told about a Crown Perth strategic plan outlining that problem gamblers spent between 22 and 60 per cent of all money on electronic gaming machines.
Mr Bossi said he had long understood that EGMs were a bigger risk of harming gamblers than any other type of casino gambling.
The inquiry heard that EGMs delivered significant profits for the casino.
A letter from former Crown legal boss Joshua Preston to the former chair of the gambling watchdog, Duncan Chair, outlined that more than $180 million in profit from $285 million in revenue was earned by Crown Perth’s electronic gaming machines in 2018.
But just $1 million was spent on responsible gambling strategies.
Mr Bossi said they had since doubled their spending on these strategies, but it was still inadequate.
Poker machines are banned in Western Australia and EGMs are only allowed at Crown Perth.