Opposition politicians in Western Australia (WA) are demanding more details about a trip to Macau made by a senior official of the state’s gaming regulator. According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), the trip was paid for by Crown Perth (pictured), a property of Australian casino operator Crown Resorts Ltd.
The national broadcaster’s ABC News service said that Barry Sergeant, director general of WA’s Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor, travelled to Macau at Crown’s expense last year.
Mr Sargeant reportedly spent three days in Macau gathering information about Crown’s competition in Asia.
James Packer chairs Crown Resorts. His firm is also an investor in Macau casinos via the Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd joint venture, of which Mr Packer is co-chairman.
Australia’s Labor Party said it appeared that as far as the regulator’s trip was concerned, the department’s guidelines regarding accepting gifts and hospitality had been breached, the ABC reported.
GGRAsia approached Crown Resorts for comment on the issue, but there was no immediate response.
The Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor’s code of conduct states: “Giving or receiving gifts or hospitality could result in decision-making being, or appearing to be, improperly influenced. You must not accept any gift, gratuity or hospitality offered in connection with your duties (except as permitted by our policies), or ask for any remuneration or benefit for doing your duties.”
The opposition’s acting spokesman on accountability, Ken Travers, was quoted by the ABC as saying: “The Minister needs to explain why he approved this trip and how he is now going to ensure conflicts of interest, or potential conflicts of interest, are managed in that portfolio.”
In a written reply to GGRAsia, the office of WA’s Racing and Gaming Minister said it did not consider the trip “hospitality” as it was a work trip for Mr Sargeant to gain a greater understanding of the importance of the international VIP business to casinos.
“Crown is a significant contributor to tourism in Western Australia, with the VIP international market a key component,” the minister, Terry Waldron, said in the statement.
“In the face of significantly increased regional competition from various Asian markets, the purpose of Mr Sargeant’s trip was for him to gain a greater understanding of the international VIP business in Macau and implications for local operations,” Mr Waldron stated.
“In his role as regulator of gambling in Western Australia, it is entirely appropriate for him to be better informed of the challenges in this market,” he added. “The Director-General manages conflicts, perceived or otherwise, in accordance with government guidelines.”
(Updated at 12.25pm, July 8)
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