Reform looms for Victoria’s ‘lap dog’ gambling watchdog
10 Feb 2021

The former chief of Victoria’s gambling regulator says the watchdog’s public servants are too preoccupied with the administration of liquor licences to properly police Crown casino.

Peter Cohen, who ran the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation until 2010, said the organisation had lost its focus on gaming and it should be split. “I think liquor and gaming should be separated,” he said.

His criticism came the day after the release of a NSW judicial review that said Crown was not fit to open a Sydney casino, finding there was “no doubt” money laundering involving an international drug-trafficking syndicate had occurred at the Melbourne casino.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Wednesday said he took the NSW findings seriously and the VCGLR would examine the report. He said his government would consider establishing a dedicated agency to oversee the casino in Melbourne.

But former premier Jeff Kennett, who spearheaded the casino’s opening as premier in 1997, told The Age that he believed the Andrews government had failed to rein in Crown.

The state opposition described the VCGLR as a “lap dog” to James Packer’s gaming juggernaut.

The NSW probe was launched last year to determine whether Crown should be trusted to hold a NSW casino licence due to allegations of criminal activity. Two Packer-aligned directors resigned on Wednesday following the release of the report on Tuesday.

Mr Cohen led the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation for eight years. The body was limited to regulating the gambling sector until it merged with the liquor watchdog in 2012 under the former Liberal state government when the current Opposition Leader, Michael O’Brien, was consumer affairs and gaming minister.

By Paul Sakkal, The Age, 10 February 2020

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