1. NSW to create independent casino commission
The NSW government has agreed to support all 19 recommendations on the regulation of casinos in the state from the Bergin Inquiry Report into Crown released in February this year.
The main recommendation to be followed up on by the government is that the Independent Casino Commission (ICC) be established as an independent, standalone, specialist casino regulator, followed by a series of legislative reforms aimed at preventing criminal activity related to casino operations.
“The NSW Government response to the Bergin Inquiry will see a redesigned regulatory structure for casinos in NSW, with a clearer focus on addressing money laundering risks inherently associated with casino activities,” said Victor Dominello, minister for digital and customer service in NSW.
“It is critical the management and operation of casinos in NSW are free from criminal influence and exploitation.”
Dominello said the new casino regulator would be subject to detailed design work and funded via the casino supervisory levy.
Other recommendations made by the Inquiry include an amendment to the Casino Control Act requiring each casino operator to engage an independent compliance auditor approved by the ICC, to report annually on the operator’s compliance with its obligations.
The Inquiry also recommended requiring operators to monitor patron accounts and perform heightened customer due diligence, prohibiting casino operators from dealing with junket operators, and the introduction of an amendment stating that a person may not acquire, hold or transfer an interest of 10% or more in a licensed operator without prior approval of the ICC.
2. SkyCity Auckland identified as key COVID-19 exposure site
More than 1,200 New Zealanders have been forced to self-isolate after a positive COVID-19 case was found to have visited SkyCity Auckland in mid-August.
New Zealand is currently fighting a new outbreak of the virus, believed to be linked to the much larger outbreak in Sydney, with the 82 new cases reported on Saturday taking the total to 415.
According to local media reports, SkyCity Entertainment Group has now identified around 1,000 guests and 240 staff who were on the casino floor of SkyCity Auckland at the same time as the confirmed case last Saturday week. All must now isolate and get a COVID-19 test.
“Public Health Authorities have advised that all customers who were on the main gaming floor at the same time are deemed close contacts and are advised to stay at home, watch for symptoms and get tested,” said SkyCity CEO Michael Ahearne.
SkyCity Auckland, currently closed under New Zealand’s lockdown measures, is undergoing deep cleaning of its casino plus all back of house areas, public lifts and handrails.
The company announced earlier this week that it was suspending casino and entertainment facilities at its Auckland, Hamilton and Queenstown properties, with Auckland expected to remain closed for at least seven days and other areas for three.
3. The Star says Crown merger benefits “still stacks up”
Star Entertainment Group CEO Matt Bekier says he remains interested in a takeover deal with rival casino operator Crown Resorts and will consider buying Crown’s casino in Sydney if the embattled operator is forced to break up its casino empire.
Last month, The Star withdrew its $12 billion merger proposal citing uncertainty in Crown being able to retain its Melbourne casino license.
According to local reports, Bekier said a major cause for concern was Victorian royal commissioner Ray Finklestein raising the prospect of splitting up of the company to ensure its casino in Melbourne is run by Victorians.
“I don’t know what requirements will be imposed on Crown out of Victoria; with that uncertainty I don’t know what we can and can’t do,” he said in an interview.
“We have to have greater clarity about what we would actually be buying, then we can form a view of how much it’s worth.”
However, Bekier maintained the the $150 million in synergies he expected out of a merger between the two companies “still stacks up” but noted there were “different ways how you could cut the pie” depending on the results of the royal commissions.