- »Victoria Touts Flexibility Amidst Challenging 2019-2020
Victoria Touts Flexibility Amidst Challenging 2019-2020
The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation already released the financials for its 2019-2020 fiscal year. Several months ago, the regulator revealed a significant decrease in expenses and decrease in gambling overall by Victorians.
This month, the VCGLR published its Annual Report 2019-2020, a more comprehensive look at the regulatory health of Victoria. VCGLR Chairperson Ross Kennedy PSM presented it to Parliament for the year ending June 30, 2020.
Overall State of Affairs
Kennedy, alongside CEO Catherine Myers, submitted the report with a letter outlining the challenges of the fiscal year, from the Victorian bushfires that began in 2019 to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
The VCGLR touted a work-from-home transition for staff, progress in implementing the 2017 VAGO audit recommendations, and evaluations of high-harm risks. And going forward, they admitted to facing more public scrutiny, in particular because of the Crown Resorts inquiries and questions. They committed to a risk-based and targeted approach to regulation.
In addition, the GCGLR will abide by the strategic direction laid out by the new Corporate Plan 2020-2023.
The VCGLR addressed the Crown situation at the start of the report, noting the attention on the gambling license of Crown Resorts pertaining to Crown Melbourne.
They acknowledged the following steps taken regarding the matter:
- Initiated a comprehensive examination of issues pertaining to Victoria regulation of Crown
- Began a full review of Crown’s internal control statements pertaining to junkets and VIPs
- Monitored the progress of other inquiries, specifically ongoing one by NSW ILGA
- Ensured Crown cooperation for implementation of 20 recommendations of Sixth Review of the Casino License and Operator
Considering the NSW inquiry is unlikely to release its final decision until several months in 2021, Victoria’s own overall review may be in limbo until that time. For now, however, Crown Melbourne’s gambling license remains intact.
Further into the report, the VCGLR detailed its close cooperation with regulators in other states, including a Joint Enforcement Strategy with Victoria Police and Memorandum of Understanding with the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC).
Specific to Crown Melbourne’s casino, the VCGLR enhanced its support of monitoring the facility via a dedicated team operating from within the facility seven days per week and a team to audit and assess Crown’s casino activities. The regulator also vowed to undergo a comprehensive and thorough review of Crown’s operations every five years.
VCGLR Year in Review
Some of the big-picture items that happened for the VCGLR with respect to the gambling sector in the last year included:
- Commenced of risk-based gambling framework
- Finalized investigation of bingo centre for unauthorized gambling and GR Act breaches
- Commenced risk-based electronic gaming machine (EGM) products framework
- Prosecuted one entity for allowing minors in EGM area
- Prosecuted a minor for gambling offences
- Appointed inspectors to monitor breaches of coronavirus protocols
- Incorporated harm minimization provisions from National Consumer Protection Framework
Victoria’s Focus on Gambling Harm Minimisation
One of the primary goals of the VCGLR as a regulator is to facilitate the minimisation of gambling harm. To increase effectiveness in that area, it stepped up its inspections at gambling venues during high-risk times. And as a result, the VCGLR revealed legislative breaches and enacted appropriate enforcement penalties.
The regulator found that this was particularly necessary in light of coronavirus restrictions. The potential for growing gambling harm increased for many segments of the population during that time. To fend off those dangers, the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation reached out to members of the community with enhanced messages and assistance options.
The aforementioned risk-based approach by the VCGLR also helped. They use risk assessments that consider the following regarding gambling applications:
- History of offenses
- Regulatory history
- Financial matters
- Legal matters
While the process was more complicated for gaming machines and electronic games, they were able to establish an assessment tool based on the complexity of the game’s features. Staff with higher technical expertise handled those cases.
Even so, the VCGLR noted ways to improve its risk-based programs going forward.
- Develop and convey a consistent message at the executive level about the definition, importance, and application of the risk-based approach.
- Incorporate a review process for systematic and regular reviews.
- Address data limitations to enable the full use of HiVE, the digital risk-prioritisation tool used to assess risks and help target resources.
- Continue capturing internal data to measure the progress of the program’s goals.
- Develop training materials to further educate about the risk-based approach.
Responsible Service of Gaming Refresher
Recent moves by the VCGLR make it clear that the regulator is stepping up its actions to reduce gambling harm and tighten its controls over the industry.
The Department of Justice and Community Safety enhanced the training requirements for all gaming venue employees. There are new free modules to complete, one that requires two to three hours of online learning and a face-to-face session at their place of employment.
Gaming employees are now required to complete the two modules before September 1, 2021. From that point forward, they must retake the full Responsible Service of Gaming (RSG) training every three years.
The regulator also offered a reminder to gaming venue employees that credits in any electronic gaming machines are not available for employees. All monies or credits in a machine after a customer leaves the EGM must be collected and remitted to the State Revenue Office per the Gambling Regulation Act 2003. It is also a reminder that employees must not participate in gaming in the facility in which they work.