Michael Connolly, WA chief on line casino officer, stepped apart over friendships with Crown staff

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The Washington government's chief casino officer has stepped aside after questions were raised about his social relationship with members of the Crown Perth legal and compliance team.

Michael Connolly is the Deputy Director General for the Department of Local Government, Sports and Culture Industries (DLGSC) and the Chief Casino Officer under WA Casino Control Legislation.

He is believed to have resigned on Friday following questions from radio station 6PR last week.

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It comes when Ken Barton resigned as Crown Resorts CEO and general manager after last week's scathing report on the gambling giant that exposed years of money laundering by Crown Perth.

In a statement, DLGSC Director General Duncan Ord said Mr Connolly had not refuted any contact with Crown Perth employees, "including fishing on his trailer boat."

"The people Mr. Connolly fished did not fit into the management category, they were not and are not part of the executive branch," said Mr. Ord.

"The nature of the relationship is to be friends over a long period of time."

Mr Ord said the friendship and any potential or perceived conflict had been officially declared to him and former General Manager Barry Sargeant and the Gaming and Betting Committee, who had noted the declaration of interest in the minutes of the meeting.

"Having regard to the fact that no conflict of interest should be perceived, Mr. Connolly is stepping down from his role as Chief Casino Officer with immediate effect," said Ord.

"Mark Beecroft has now taken on the role of assisting the Commission in responding to the investigation report."

The friendship was declared to the department

A state government spokesman said the DLGSC had told Mr Connelly that he had formed a long-standing friendship with the Crown employee in 2015 and 2020.

"This process is managed by the department," the spokesman said in a statement.

"The state government takes these matters very seriously.

"Since taking office in 2017, the Board of Directors of the Gaming and Wagering Commission has been completely renewed."

The spokesman said the State Solicitor's Office (SSO) had advised the chairman of the Gaming and Wagering Commission on the explosive report by the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) that Crown was unable to operate a casino Own license in Sydney.

WA's Gaming and Wagering Commission will meet Tuesday to discuss a damned report that found Crown unsuitable for running a new Sydney casino. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

According to the report, hundreds of millions of dollars were raised through the Crown Casino in Perth from a $ 2 shell firm called Riverbank Investments Pty Ltd. washed.

Racing and Games Minister Paul Papalia said it was right for Mr Connolly to step aside.

"I'm meeting with the director general of the Department of Local Government, Sports and Culture this morning ahead of tomorrow's gaming and betting committee meeting to evaluate the ILGA review," he said.

"I will also discuss Mr. Connolly's departure, which was the right thing to do to avoid real or implied perception of a conflict of interest.

"A jurisdictional working group has also been established with the New South Wales and Victoria regulators to enable a harmonious response to future regulatory and legislative reforms."

"Worrying and Confusing": Greens

WA Greens MP and gambling spokeswoman Alison Xamon said she was alarmed about Mr. Connolly's relationships with Crown executives.

"I am very concerned that the state government does not seem to have shown the diligence that we expect the regulator to do," she said.

"The fact that conflicts of interest have been declared but no action has been taken to address what is very worrying and confusing."

Do you know more about this story? Contact Rhiannon Shine