Casino Legislation Amendment Bill 2022

Casino Legislation Amendment Bill 2022

(Second Reading Debate, 9 August 2022, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

I make a contribution in support of the Casino Legislation Amendment Bill 2022, which will implement the recommendations of the important casino inquiry report by the Hon. Patricia Anne Bergin, SC. I thank the Minister for the briefing he provided me and for working cooperatively with me on the legislation. I commend his second reading speech and the contribution from the Opposition. I wish those contributions were made nine years ago. Crown Casino is a sore point for me because it is in my electorate. It opened yesterday, nine years after legislation was rushed through the Parliament in what can only be seen as a betrayal of the people of New South Wales by the Labor Opposition and the Coalition Government to appease James Packer and the Labor Party heavyweights he hired to lobby the Opposition on his behalf.

That legislation followed a number of deals that were done behind closed doors that saw rules for unsolicited proposals being changed and good planning principles, which were aimed at protecting Sydney's iconic harbour waterfront for the public, being thrown out. Today James Packer has nothing to do with the casino after the dodgy dealings at Crown were exposed and led to this important piece of legislation. Karl Bitar and Mark Arbib have also left the company, but Sydneysiders are stuck with a massive blight on our harbour and city. The Crown Casino and the way in which its approval was rushed through the Parliament nine years ago is a monument to all that is broken with New South Wales politics.

At this appalling casino lives will be destroyed, homes will be lost, families will be broken apart and crimes will likely occur. We know this because that is what happens at every casino around the world. In 2013, claims that the casino would be limited to high rollers only were laughable and still are today. The casino will have $25 tables and computerised gaming terminals. It will welcome anyone who wants to lose money to help the profits of the private equity firm that now owns it. In 2013 the member for Balmain and I were the lone voices pointing out what is well known today—and what should have been well known then—that casinos can be hotbeds of crime.

At that time the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre [AUSTRAC] was investigating money laundering in Australia. At the time that this Parliament was rushing through legislation to approve a high‑roller casino without the regulatory framework that we now seek to deliver under the bill, AUSTRAC found that high‑stakes gaming is vulnerable to abuse because it is common for players to gamble with large volumes of cash, the source and ultimate ownership of which may not be readily discernible. Clearly at that time AUSTRAC was not as respected as James Packer, Karl Bitar and Mark Arbib. Nine years later, thanks to investigative journalism, the Bergin report and the action of the New South Wales Government, we are finally putting some rigour, restrictions and regulations around money laundering, harm minimisation and criminal activity in casinos. That should have been obvious at the time—and maybe it was, which is even more concerning.

I welcome the Government's acceptance of all of the Bergin inquiry's recommendations on regulating casinos in New South Wales and the restrictions on Crown's gaming licence, which is strongly reflected in the bill. I will continue working with the Government to further address gambling harm minimisation. I foreshadow that I will make amendments to the bill at a later stage.

Let's work together to celebrate and protect our great city!