WA royal commission set to hand down its first report

by Mia Chapman Last Updated
Problem gambling controls at Perth casino called into question

The Western Australian royal commission into the state’s gambling laws and operations of its sole casino is due to hand down its first findings.

Yahoo Finance reports that the interim report from former Supreme Court justices Neville Owen and Lindy Jenkins and former WA auditor-general Colin Murphy is scheduled to go to Governor Kim Beazley by the end of June.

It will deal substantially with the adequacy of the existing regulatory framework in relation to casinos and casino gaming in Western Australia after conducting a series of public hearings.

A final report from the Western Australian royal commission, which will look more closely at the suitability of Crown Perth to hold a gaming licence, is due by November 14.

A bombshell New South Wales report into the company’s operations in 2021 found Crown was not suitable to hold the licence for a Sydney casino because it had facilitated money laundering through bank accounts held by subsidiaries.

At the opening of the WA commission, Mr Owen said the inquiry would be informed by the NSW Bergin probe as well as a royal commission being undertaken in Victoria.

“So far as we are aware, this is the first time since the grant of the casino licence in 1988 that there has been an inquiry into these issues and given social changes in over 30 years, there is an increased importance to an inquiry of this kind,” he said.

“We will be concerned with grave matters of private and public interest and we enter into this investigation with that firmly in mind.”

The inquiry will not consider the morality of gambling but is likely to touch upon Crown’s corporate social responsibility,” Mr Owen said.

WA’s Gaming and Wagering Commission has already directed Crown Perth to no longer hold junkets and to obtain the commission’s approval to establish gaming bank accounts in a bid to prevent any further possible wrongdoing.

Advocates call for change to Perth casino operating hours

In light of the Crown royal commission, Relationships Australia WA executive director Michael Sheehan wants warning signs, similar to those on cigarette packets, to be mandated inside the casino, as well as clocks and natural light so that gamblers don’t lose track of time.

He said the impact on relationships and families from all forms of gambling was significant, often leading to other problems include absenteeism from work, domestic violence and even suicide.

Mr Sheehan is also calling for the WA government to invest more in developing public awareness campaigns.

Also included in his wish list would be to prohibit free or discounted alcohol or free credits being offered to gamblers and to limit the casino’s opening hours.

“The argument will be that there’s a lot of people who do enjoy it as a social activity but there is the proportion of problem gamblers who really get hooked in and lose a lot of money,” Mr Sheehan said.

“The other thing we would be looking at is having counsellors in the casino that people can talk to.”

Peter runs a helpline for Gamblers Anonymous in the state and lost his career through gambling addiction.

He said the WA government had the best record in the country, because it had kept pokies out of pubs and clubs.

However, he said enforcing restricted hours on the Crown Perth casino would take the pressure off families and employers who often ended up bearing the brunt of compulsive gambling.

“Gambling induces in people…a real sense of unreality, almost like you are living on another planet,” he said.

“So you become so dependent on the dopamine triggers and all of the brain chemistry triggers that you get from gambling and from gambling machines that you want to stay there.”

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