Focus on Asia: Getting what you paid for By Ben Blaschke, Managing Editor, Inside Asian Gaming August 3, 2021 at 10:00 am Explosive revelations from recent inquiries into the suitability of Australian casino giant Crown Resorts to hold casino licenses in the states of NSW and Victoria highlight the dangers of slashing regulatory budgets. In a recent current affairs program aired on Australian television in early July, five former Victorian gaming inspectors detailed their experiences trying to regulate Crown Melbourne, which include their view that Crown had assumed so much power it could effectively dictate terms amounting to self-regulation. According to the inspectors, efforts to report money laundering suspicions were also blocked from the top. While Crown’s actions around money laundering, gaming taxes and responsible gambling have rightly raised serious alarms during the Royal Commission, many of its systemic issues are said to have been exacerbated by negative consequences of the state’s move from a specialized to a rationalized regulatory model. In 2012, the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation merged with Responsible Alcohol Victoria to form a new body called the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR), responsible for the regulatory oversight of both industries. In recent interviews with IAG, former regulators Peter Cohen and David Green observed that such mergers will always be at the expense of the gaming component, since liquor is more complicated to police and therefore tends to consume the majority of available resources. Worryingly, Victoria is not alone in such an arrangement, with both NSW and South Australia also combining alcohol and gaming regulation in recent years in a sign that rationalization is winning out. One source I spoke to pointed out that many state governments, keen to slash bureaucratic bloat, had moved to a model of generic regulation across all sectors. This ignores the existence of certain specialist industries, however, which require specialist regulation. Gambling, the source said, is indisputably one of them. Exactly why some governments have refused to recognize gambling as a special case is hard to say, although it could have something to do with a general reluctance by Australian politicians to be associated in any way with gambling. Unlike in Nevada, a jurisdiction where gaming tourism is widely accepted by society as the state’s key economic driver, the view in Australia seems to be that no good news comes from gambling unless it’s a prosecution. Unfortunately, this has left many of Australia’s gaming regulators short on vital experience and industry expertise, not to mention “boots on the ground.” This is the environment under which Crown has fallen so far out of line, yet the two regulatory bodies governing it in Victoria and Western Australia are taking fire for failing to intervene. Governments around the world should take note.