If it were up to Rob Stokes, perhaps New South Wales – and maybe all of Australia – would be casino-free. The Cities and Infrastructure Minister believes the casino industry has become a “cesspit of dishonesty.”
There’s no denying the fact that Australia’s gaming industry is at a crucial point in its existence. The bombshell reports that Crown Resorts and Star Entertainment acted for years in willful disregard for anti-money-laundering policies is going to cause a shift in the country’s gambling dynamic.
Where that shift ends is open for debate. However, in New South Wales (NSW), Cities and Infrastructure Minister Rob Stokes knows what he would do. Maybe Australia could survive without any casinos.
Casinos Lose Face in Australia
Crown Resorts damaged the casino industry’s reputation over its multiple AML failings, allegations of machine-rigging and proclamations that criminal warlords were able to gamble at its properties. Star hasn’t made the situation any better. It, too, willfully sidestepped regulations and even tried to cover up its illegal activity.
As the two largest casino operators in Australia, Crown’s and Star’s shenanigans are tearing down the house. Their misguided actions, which other countries are dealing with, as well, will have ripple effects that extend well beyond Australia’s borders.
Domestically, though, Stokes says enough’s enough. The Sydney Morning Herald highlights comments he made Tuesday, questioning whether casinos are still necessary. He openly wonders if now is the time for NSW to clap back and possibly dissolve the casino market, calling it a “veritable cesspit of dishonesty, tax evasion, junkets and money laundering.”
Now is the best time to ask the question: are the illusory and ephemeral benefits of Sydney’s casinos worth the proven harm – the deceit, the crime, the destroyed lives?” asks NSW Cities and Infrastructure Minister Rob Stokes.
Stokes may have been asking the question to highlight the issues or because he truly feels that casinos should close. Regardless of the reason, the idea isn’t likely to develop a lot of traction.
Gambling in casinos and through gaming machines in bars produces more than AU$183 billion (US$173.48 billion) in gross gaming revenue a year. Tax rates vary but, even at a flat 20%, that’s around $36 billion (US$34 billion) in tax revenue annually.
Lemons Into Lemonade
With so much money at stake, the best thing option would be to increase oversight. NSW is doing just that and will have a new gaming regulator. Presumably, it will be in place before the end of this summer and changes are definitely on the way.
In addition to the Bergin Inquiry in NSW that toppled Crown and the investigation into Star’s activity, the Australian state is also scrutinizing how bars, pubs and other venues manage their electronic gambling machines. Assertions that they facilitate money laundering worth millions of dollars add fuel to the anti-gambling fire.
That investigation is taking place behind closed doors, not in a public forum like the Crown and Star reviews. However, when it’s done, and with the new casino regulator in place, NSW is going to usher in a completely new era of gaming.
Any time a new boss arrives to lead a group, he or she likes to show off and assert their power over the rest. This would inherently be true of a new gaming regulator, but the timing magnifies the effects. Government scrutiny, public backlash and a desire to take charge to put things right will create the perfect storm for change in NSW.
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