Star crossed: Queen’s Wharf loses revenue protection, yet pubs and clubs untouched

Sweeping reforms to the operations of casinos have been introduced which would mean Star Entertainment’s Queen’s Wharf casino would lose a key clause that protected its profit.

Oct 14, 2022, updated Oct 14, 2022
Queensland Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman.   (AAP Image/Jono Searle)

Queensland Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman. (AAP Image/Jono Searle)

But pubs and clubs, which also have poker machines, have been protected from far stricter rules around safer gambling that would apply to the state’s four casinos.

Attorney General Shannon Fentiman has not ruled extending the laws to the broader gambling sector and said in a press conference earlier this week that the Government would continue to look for ways to reduce gambling harm and would work with the industry on reforms.

The recent Gotterson inquiry into Star Casino heard evidence from troubled gamblers about how restrictions on gambling at the casino would mean they would just move somewhere else.

A second tranche of amendments would be progressed next year to implement reforms including mandatory carded play in casinos and the introduction of mandatory pre-commitment facilitated by carded play.

The reforms stem from extraordinary claims raised in the Gotterson inquiry in Queensland and the Bell inquiry in NSW relating to money laundering and other activities at Star’s casinos in the two states.

Under the reforms casino operators would be hit with a supervisory levy, observe interstate police exclusion directions and comply with a safe gambling code of conduct and licensees would also be subject to periodic suitability reviews which would have inquiry powers.

The amendments to be introduced today, would also mean the Government would have the discretion to name and shame casinos that have been hit with disciplinary actions and a special manager could be appointed to “where it is necessary to discipline and potentially remediate a casino licensee back to suitability”.

But Star’s Queens Wharf, which is expected to be opened next year, will lose revenue protection that was put in place by legislation in 2016. That legislation meant the Government would have to pay compensation to Star if taxes were increased or its gaming revenue fell for certain reasons.

Under those 2016 laws, Star would have had to consent to any reforms or increases in taxes.

Gotterson’s inquiry recommended that be scrapped under 12 key reform recommendations.

“I will also move amendments to neutralise claims to compensation by casino entities that arise from regulatory action in accordance with triggers established in any agreement between a casino entity and the state,” Fentiman said.

“As Mr Gotterson points out, the proper regulation of casinos demands that the state be ‘unfettered’ and free to impose reasonable controls on the operations of casinos. The state must be able to adjust those controls as circumstances demand and in order to protect the public interest. New South Wales and Victoria have acted to extinguish compensation triggers that may impede the proper regulation of casinos in those jurisdictions, and I propose that the same action be undertaken here.”

Under reforms recommended by the Gotterson inquiry, the State Government has introduced amendments to legislation governing casinos that imposes harsh penalties for breaches of the Act of up to $100 million, an increase from $50 million which was introduced earlier this year.

Fentiman said the reforms provided a meaningful deterrent to noncompliance by, for example, introducing pecuniary penalties as a form of disciplinary action, in some cases retrospectively.

“This reflects the importance that the state and the community place on ensuring casinos are conducted with the utmost integrity and fairness and remain free from criminal influence and exploitation,” Fentiman said.

“I can advise that I will be moving an amendment during consideration in detail to increase the maximum pecuniary penalty that may be imposed by Governor in Council as a disciplinary action upon a casino entity to $100 million.

The casinos did get some positives out the amendments. Gaming machine licensees would be able to trade until 2am on New Year’s Day and restrictions that made hiring new staff would be removed.

Local News Matters
Copyright © 2024 InQueensland.
All rights reserved.
Privacy Policy