Responsible gaming staff at Crown Perth campaigned for pay parity with their Crown Melbourne counterparts for at least two years, and only received an increase after the casino giant faced multiple inquiries into its culture and regulatory compliance.
The Crown Perth Royal Commission heard on Wednesday that the company’s outgoing general manager of responsible gaming, Sonja Bauer, agreed responsible gaming (RGA) staff at the West Australian venue were “substantially underpaid” when compared to those in Melbourne, before a remuneration review was conducted earlier this year.
Council assisting the commission David Leigh noted that Crown Perth general manager of responsible gaming, Strelein Faulks, had spoken with Ms Bauer about improved remuneration at least as early as 2019 – a matter kicked higher to then chief legal officer Joshua Preston.
The commission then heard that salaries for the Crown Perth RGA team leapt 50 per cent on 2019 levels following a decision in April this year.
Mr Leigh asked Ms Bauer if she believed this reassessment of the Perth RGA team’s work aligned with Crown facing the scrutiny of various probes into its culture and conduct.
“I can’t answer for Crown, in general, on that,” she said via videolink at Wednesday’s restricted hearing.
Ms Bauer, who is due to leave the company after 27 years this week, said the previous pay difference between the RGA teams had nothing to do with the quality or importance of the work at each casino, and more to do with the fact that many of the Melbourne staff had been in their roles for a longer period.
“There was certainly an appetite late last year in terms of reviewing some of those salaries, which then moved into further reviews earlier this year,” Ms Bauer said.
Mr Leigh: “Why was it only late last year that that path was recommenced when Ms Strelein Faulks was seeking remuneration, at least, as early as 2019?”
Ms Bauer: “I think it’s probably, I would only be guessing, but … I think it was just a matter of time. I really don’t recall specifically what prompted that again.”
The Crown Perth inquiry began in May and comes after last year’s damning Bergin inquiry in NSW, which found Crown was not fit to hold a licence for its new $2.2bn casino at Barangaroo in Sydney.
This finding hinged on evidence the James Packer-backed company had been infiltrated by organised crime and had facilitated money laundering.
The Bergin report found Crown had enabled or facilitated money laundering at its Perth casino through its Riverbank account and at its Melbourne venue through its Southbank account, which sparked a separate royal commission heard earlier this year.
The inquiry continues on Thursday with the grilling of Mr Preston.