When it comes to the gambling industry in Australia, its operations and its regulation, it often requires you to suspend all logic. Indeed, Lewis Carroll's quote from Alice in Wonderland that one "often believed six impossible things before breakfast" is usually an apt description.
Firstly, the decision by the Queensland government to at last hold an independent investigation into Star Entertainment's fitness to continue holding casino licences in Brisbane and the Gold Coast is to be welcomed.
The government has resisted calls for months amid the most appalling revelations from the Crown royal commission in Victoria and Sydney inquiry into Star Casino. It even reportedly introduced pre-emptive legislation to empower the regulator to impose penalties of up to $50 million for integrity breaches in an effort to stave off an inquiry.
These inquiries have revealed systemic failings and criminal behaviour including fraud, money laundering and the aiding of organised crime. There is nothing to suggest the new Queensland inquiry will not uncover similar revelations.
What is extraordinary is that it has taken so long for these investigations to be launched.
And what is even more extraordinary (Lewis Carroll-like extraordinary) is that no sooner have we heard such evidence of criminal behaviour, than the regulator has approved Blackstone, a foreign-owned, unaccountable private equity company to take over the running of Crown Casinos.
There will be no annual general meetings held by Blackstone. Their operations are likely to be even more opaque than Crown's were.
And what is more troubling is that without the Chinese high-roller business, which has collapsed, Blackstone has paid above the odds and could take a financial hit of up to $250 million a year.
This will impact Barangaroo especially hard, as its business model was largely built upon the high-roller business. It has no poker machines. But you can bet before too long that they will be pressuring the government to approve poker machines.
There was good news recently, when the regulator bared its newfound teeth and fined Crown a record $80 million for operating a scheme that allowed the illegal transfer of funds from China - a scheme exposed by the royal commission.
It is estimated Crown derived revenue of more than $32 million from the scandal, which violated Chinese laws and Victoria's Casino Control Act. There has been evidence that Star operated a similar scheme, but it is yet to face censure.
The size of the fine against Crown was only possible because last year the regulator had its power increased to impose a maximum fine - from $1 million to $100 million.
But bizarrely, NSW has not increased the fines the regulator can impose on such abhorrent and illegal behaviour by their casinos. It remains at a paltry $1 million.
It seems that state governments are not interested in cracking down on casinos in their jurisdictions, no matter how bad the evidence is - or even if the evidence has come from their own inquiries.
Despite overwhelming opposition to gambling, and in particular the proliferation of sports gambling which is growing with seemingly no boundaries, our politicians are unable, or unwilling, to act.
It is not unlike the issue of gun reform in the United States, where more than 80 per cent of Americans want gun reform but politicians continue to be in the thrall of the NRA.
Over the course of the last federal election, the major parties were virtually silent on gambling reform.
The gambling industry is a powerful lobby with deep pockets. We now know that the gambling industry has poured $18 million into state and territory politics in recent years. This comes on top of the $50 million in political donations made over the last decade at the Commonwealth level.
It is this lobbying power - and the cultural myth that Australians love a punt - that allows Australians to be, per population, the greatest gambling losers in the world.
We must not suspend belief on gambling reform any longer. The time has come for the establishment of an independent national casino regulator.
The time of regulators being captured by the industry must come to an end.
While the Queensland inquiry is to be welcomed, history shows us we can't expect reform or change from its eventual findings - not matter how damning they end up being.
Only an independent national casino regulator can protect Australian families and their children from the incredible and all-pervasive harm of gambling in this country.
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