The Royal Commission in Western Australia that is currently investigating the operations of Crown Perth has heard that the state’s casino regulatory body prioritised the casino’s finances over the public interest at the time it approved some changes in order to make so-called electronic gaming machines (EGMs) resemble controversial poker machines.
At the hearing, Duncan Ord, the former Chair of the Gaming and Wagering Commission (GWC), revealed that the casino’s finances of Crown Perth were struggling at the time when the casino approaches the gambling regulator in March 2019, asking it for permission to speed up the machines. As Mr Ord explained, the gambling operator had made it clear that it had been having some financial difficulties that would have resulted in staff lay-offs.
As heard by the Royal Commission, the casino operator wanted to increase the electronic gaming machines’ speed of play – a move that would increase the similarities between the EGMs and so-called pokies, according to Patricia Cahill SC, the counsel assisting the Royal Commission. As noted by Ms Cahill SC, this would also help the Australian gambling giant make more money from its customers, which meant that interests had not been balanced at all, as the local gambling watchdog had weighted the proposal in favour of Crown Resorts and its financial interests.
Under the provisions of the state’s gambling legislation, the GWC is required to make sure gambling-related harm is tackled as much as possible. However, the hearing revealed that the gambling regulator did not seek the advice of any experts on the potential impacts that the electronic gaming machine changes could have on society.
Differences between Pokies and EGMs Getting Smaller, Former GWC Chief Says
Poker machines, also known as pokies have been officially banned on the territory of Western Australia since Crown Perth started operation in 1985 due to concerns associated with the highly addictive nature of the machines. For the time being, only electronic gaming machines are allowed to be played at the Perth-based Crown Casino but, according to gambling experts, the machines are not that different from pokies now.
Mr Ord, who once occupied the Chair’s position at the state’s gambling regulator, explained to the WA Royal Commission that at the time Crown Resorts filed an application to make its EGMs faster, there had already been a very fine line between poker machines and electronic gaming terminals. He agreed that the changes that took place in 2019 made the differences between them even smaller.
This has been the second appearance of Mr Ord before the Royal Commission. After he gave evidence in May, the Government of Western Australia announced that his retirement. At the time, Mr Ord revealed a decision to stand aside Michael Connolly, a former chief casino officer due to his personal links with Crown Perth officials in order to keep the integrity of the local gambling regulatory body intact.
Daniel Williams has started his writing career as a freelance author at a local paper media. After working there for a couple of years and writing on various topics, he found his interest for the gambling industry.