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Australian watchdog accused of putting Crown Perth finances before public interest

Western Australia’s gaming watchdog prioritised the Crown Perth casino’s finances over public interest when it gave the go ahead to speed up electronic gaming machines, the Perth Casino Royal Gaming Commission was told.

CrownPerth

At a hearing, former Gaming and Wagering Commission (GWC) chairman Duncan Ord claimed that Crown Perth’s finances were struggling when they approached the watchdog in 2019.

“Crown made it very clear at the time that they were bleeding money and that there would be a consequence of staff being stood down,” Mr Ord said.

It is the legal responsibility of the GWC to minimise public harm done by gambling, but according to Mr Ord, the watchdog did not seek any expert advice on the impact of any changes made to machines.

Mr Ord claimed the operator wanted to increase the speed of play of its electronic gaming machines.

Patricia Cahill, the counsel assisting the Commission, said this would make them more like poker machines and “make [Crown Perth] more money."

Poker machines have been banned in Western Australia since 1985 owing to their highly addictive nature.

“So there wasn't a balancing of interests at all. You simply weighted the proposal in favour of considering Crown's financial interests ahead of the public interest in minimising harm caused by EGMs?” Ms. Cahill asked, which Mr Ord confirmed.

There already existed “a very fine line” between electronic gaming machines and poker machines when Crown Perth applied to the GWC to make them faster, said Mr Ord.

He also reiterated his support for former Chief Casino Officer Michael Connolly, whose friendships with Crown Perth executives brought into question his integrity.

“I believed — and still believe — that Mr Connolly was an honourable man and believed he could firewall his professional obligations from his personal obligations,” Mr Ord said.

“I saw plenty of evidence that he took his responsibilities as chief casino officer very seriously.”

The Western Australian Government announced Ord’s retirement shortly after he first gave evidence.


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