Queensland Tightens Casino Laws; Increases Fines to $50M

The Queensland government has been given new powers that allows it to fine casinos and those that operate them up to $50 million.

The Queensland government is cracking down on casino operators who think they are above the law. Changes to the Casino Control Amendment Bill tighten laws for land-based casinos. The Queensland government cited the ongoing problems at Crown Resorts and Star Entertainment as the main reason for the changes.

New legislation seeks to prevent criminal activity in land-based casino. This includes, but is not limited to, false reporting and money laundering. Both Crown and Star are guilty of both of supporting these criminal activities.

The Casino Control Amendment Bill uses penalty units to determine the penalties issues. For example, one penalty unit is $137. Forty units is the current penalty for interfering with an inspected. This is now 160 units or $21,920. Furthermore, fines for manipulating financial records doubles to 400 units, or $54,800.

However, these new fines pale into insignificance compared the new maximum possible penalty levied on operators. New rules give the Queensland government power to levy $5 million fines to any licensee of a casino. The Governor in Council has powers to issue fines weighing in at $50 million. Nothing will deter casinos from being dodgy if being stung for $50 million will not.

Queensland Attorney-General Explains the Changes

The Honourable Shannon Fentimen, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice among other vital roles, explained the thinking behind changing the casino laws in Queensland.

“The Bill will ensure Queenslanders can have confidence in the integrity of our casino laws. These reforms seek to address concerns which have emerged from the public inquiries into casinos operated by Crown Resorts in New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia, as well as investigations underway into the Star Entertainment Group.”

“As a result of the changes, there will be significant pecuniary penalties as a disciplinary action of up to $50 million. These reforms are considered to be examples of best practice casino regulation and will be in place before the opening of a new casino at Queen’s Wharf to be operated by The Star.”

Passing of the bill gives the government new powers regarding information and documentation. The government has the authority to demand casinos hand over information, even if the casino considered the information “privileged information.” Previously, casinos could refuse information requests if it revealed certain details about its operations.

Fentiman indicated additional changes are possible depending on the results of the NSW inquiry into Star.

Government Will Not Entertain Early Casino Closures in the State

The Queensland government shot down plans to limit the state’s casinos‘ operating hours. Removing the 24-hour trading hours is not compatible with the government’s plans for Brisbane.

A recommendation to close safe-night precinct venues at 03:30 has no support. Indeed, Queensland officials feel closing then is counterproductive. Casinos can remain open 24-hours as they currently do.

Venues in so-called safe-night precincts cannot sell alcohol after 03:00. This is an earlier time than 05:00 previously in operation. In addition, larger venues have mandatory ID scanners.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk revealed some impressive figures related to cutting alcohol sales. There has been a 49% fall in serious assaults between 03:00 and 06:00 on Fridays and Saturdays across Queensland. Fortitude Valley, one of the state’s most popular precincts, has seen a 52% reduction in such assaults.

This is good news for Star because it is moving its Brisbane casino from The Treasury Building to the waterfront project on Queen’s Wharf. Star is spending $3.6 billion on the lavish project. However, its opening is in doubt because of the ongoing New South Wales. The inquiry has already confirmed the casino lied to casino and financial regulators. It also harbours guilt relating to money laundering.

There is every chance Queensland puts the brakes on Star in the state. Such a move would be disastrous.