Casino-appointed “independent” expert ludicrous: SA-BEST

29 May 2023

A decision directing the operators of Adelaide Casino to appoint an “independent” expert to review its operation was today labelled as ludicrous by SA-BEST. 

SA-BEST MLCs Connie Bonaros and Frank Pangallo said the State Government must appoint the expert to ensure transparency and accountability in the review to be undertaken. 

“The crisis sweeping the Adelaide Casino is going from bad to worse,” said Connie, SA-BEST’s gambling spokesperson. 

“How can the expert be ‘independent’ when the casino is making the appointment – that is simply ludicrous and lacks any form of transparency or accountability,” she said. 

“Any such appointment needs to be at arm’s length from the casino and made by the State Government and the Liquor and Gambling Commissioner, Dini Soulio – and the costs incurred paid by the casino’s operators.” 

Frank said: “It beggars belief the Commissioner would request the casino appoints its own expert – it’s akin to putting a fox in charge of the hen house,” Frank said. 

“This is another glaring example why we should never have dismantled the Office of the Independent Gambling Regulator,” he said. 

“The government needs to reverse that decision as a matter of urgency and reappoint a Regulator and not leave such governance and control to a government agency that has long been regarded as a toothless tiger on consumer issues. 

“I am also requesting Mr Martin release an interim report into his stalled investigation to allow South Australians to know what he has discovered so far. 

“Any independent review of the casino – as directed by Commissioner Soulio – also needs to be released publicly and not kept in secret.” 

Commissioner Soulio has today directed the casino’s operators - SkyCity Entertainment - to appoint a “suitably qualified independent expert” to review, monitor and report on its anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing and host responsibility enhancement programs. 

This follows legal action launched by AUSTRAC - Australia’s financial crimes watchdog – in December last year alleging that criminals laundered almost $4 billion at the casino in the past six years. 

As part of its civil claim lodged in the Federal Court,  AUSTRAC has alleged SkyCity: 

  • failed to appropriately assess the money laundering and terrorism financing risks it faced, including the likelihood and impact of those risks, and to identify and respond to changes in risk over time. 
  • did not include in its AML/CTF programs appropriate risk-based systems and controls to mitigate and manage the risks to which SkyCity was reasonably exposed. 
  • failed to establish an appropriate framework for Board and senior management oversight of the AML/CTF programs. 
  • did not have a transaction monitoring program to monitor transactions and identify suspicious activity that was appropriately risk-based or appropriate to the nature, size and complexity of SkyCity. 

“Very serious concerns have been raised about the operations of the casino which need to be investigated and determined as a matter of urgency – not let until after AUSTRAC’s legal action has been finalised,” Frank said. 

“It is of significant public interest that Mr Martin’s report, any findings and recommendations into the operations of SkyCity in Adelaide must be released immediately not put on hold for civil proceedings which could take years to resolve given the extent of the allegations and charges,” he said. 

“This is yet another example of just how significant a problem gambling is in the community – which we know has the potential to lead to corruption and other illegal criminal activity. 

“SA-BEST has been calling for a Royal Commission into the operation of Adelaide Casino since we were elected in 2018 – nothing has changed in five years,” he said. 

“In fact, it would appear things are getting worse.”

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