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Perth casino regulator admits conflict-of-interest mistakes

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Western Australia’s gaming department admits it failed to properly manage conflicts of interest while overseeing the operations of Crown Perth.

A royal commission is investigating whether lax government oversight contributed to issues including money laundering and problem gambling at the Perth casino.

The Burswood venue is regulated by the Gaming and Wagering Commission – a part-time, seven member board that meets monthly – with assistance from the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries (DLGSCI).

WA’s inquiry has heard the GWC opted not to investigate allegations of money laundering against Crown after the company’s “persuasive” former legal boss told them it was a media beat-up.

Evidence has also been aired about the state’s former chief casino officer sharing regular fishing trips with two Crown employees.

The royal commission on Tuesday heard closing submissions as it prepared to deliver its final report next month.

Counsel representing the DLGSCI, Fiona Seaward, outlined an overhaul of GWC and department processes including requirements to disclose personal relationships with Crown staff and to register gifts, benefits and hospitality.

She said the department was examining its code of conduct and would receive integrity presentations from the state’s corruption watchdog and public sector commission.

“The department has accepted, and accepts today, that its historical management of conflicts of interest was not of the standard expected of a modern public sector organisation involved in regulation,” she said.

“The department has taken a number of steps to address this issue.”

Ms Seaward revealed WA did not currently have a permanent chief casino officer but departmental executive Jennifer Shelton was to be appointed to the role.

The royal commission is investigating whether WA’s regulators effectively allowed Crown to self-regulate aspects of its Perth operations.

An interim report highlighted changes including the deregulation of junket operations and the reduced use of inspectors, who had not been permanently present on the casino floor since mid-2015.

The NSW Bergin report released last year found Crown had “enabled or facilitated” money laundering at its Perth casino through an account linked to a shell company, Riverbank Investments.

The GWC’s lawyer Paul Evans said its members received “very limited remuneration” and the board was inherently dependent on the department.

“GWC urges no sympathy for Crown or any past or present Crown officer, nor indeed regrettably to the extent that it may be necessary … departmental officers or former members of the commission,” he said.

The inquiry will also hear closing submissions from lawyers representing Crown and the company’s major shareholder James Packer in coming days.

The billionaire last year told the royal commission there were “many oversights” during his time overseeing Crown’s Perth casino operations between 2004 and 2016.

We’ve Already Come Too Far To End This Now.

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