In the southern Australian state of Victoria and a parliamentary committee has reportedly been told that the last three years have seen the number of official gaming inspectors employed by the jurisdiction decline by 20%.
According to a report from The Age newspaper, the revelation comes as the state is conducting an official examination via a royal commission into Crown Resorts Limited amid allegations that the casino operator may have been complicit in instances of money laundering. The source detailed that the firm is responsible for the jurisdiction’s 1,604-room Crown Melbourne facility and could ultimately be stripped of its gambling license if it is found to have aided illegal activities.
The newspaper reported that the Victorian Commission for Gaming and Liquor Regulation employed 70 full-time inspectors in 2018 but that this number has since dwindled to just 56. The regulator purportedly told parliamentarians that it has nevertheless been able to maintain a ‘consistent presence’ at the five-star Crown Melbourne for the past six years but was unable to confirm just how many of its staff were based inside the 43-story venue.
The Age reported that the new figures followed the appearance of allegations from five former Victoria casino inspectors on Monday evening that they had been continually stonewalled by their bosses while trying to properly monitor the activities of Crown Resorts Limited, which is also responsible for Western Australia’s Crown Perth property and the new Crown Sydney development in New South Wales. Opposition shadow gaming minister Stephanie Ryan purportedly pronounced that the new data served as proof that the Labor administration of Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews had ‘gutted’ the Victorian Commission for Gaming and Liquor Regulation at exactly the same time the watchdog should have been upping its supervisory activities.
Ryan reportedly declared…
“Labor’s decision to dramatically reduce the number of inspectors raises further questions about political interference in the regulator. The government and the regulator should be brought before the royal commission to explain why inspector numbers were reduced while allegations of illegal and corrupt conduct were being aired.”
However, 48-year-old Andrews reportedly responded by proclaiming that he is aware of ‘significant deficiencies’ with the Victorian Commission for Gaming and Liquor Regulation, which was established in 2012 by the administration of then-Premier Edward Baillieu from the center-right Liberal Party, and would now be setting up a standalone committee to manage the casino licence held by Melbourne-headquartered Crown Resorts Limited.
The Age reported that all of this comes only seven months after the state government’s Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation Minister, Melissa Horne, had defended the Victorian Commission for Gaming and Liquor Regulation before the same parliamentary committee. The legislator purportedly used a December 17 session to assert that the watchdog had been ‘incredibly thorough’ in its investigation into Crown Resorts Limited by conducting ‘more than 1,100 audits’ of its operations.
Horne reportedly stated…
“The Victorian Commission for Gaming and Liquor Regulation has had people stationed down there in the casino. It has also, too, taken some disciplinary action in relation to a number of providers.”