Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Peter Cohen Post VCGR

Peter Cohen is the former Executive Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation. He was responsible for all aspects of gambling regulation in Victoria, including Crown Casino, 27,500 poker machines in over 500 venues, two public lottery operators, bookmakers, the TAB, Keno and charitable gaming. With all this knowledge, Mr Cohen is now working for The Agenda Group; a firm that combines "the political, corporate and media expertise of senior consultants in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra, we exhaust all possibilities to deliver for our clients". Amongst their claimed accomplishments are:
Tactical media and government relations campaign to overturn sections of the Federal Government’s health professionals accreditation scheme
-and-

Regulatory transformation of an international gaming organisation
I would call this a lobby group.

Here's the release from the Victorian Gambling Commission upon Mr Cohen's retirement.The business of The Agenda Group is not what would have first come to mind although it is private enterprise.

There is a lot of confidential information that came across Mr Cohen's desk in his capacity as chief executive officer. He likely had access to information as to how much was being lost at what venues and on what forms of gambling. That includes KENO and Club KENO. It makes Mr Cohen's promotional statement about the attractive nature of the new KENO license all the more extraordinary:
"The new keno licence which has just been issued and which will take effect from April 2012 overcomes some of these limitations. Firstly, the network of available outlets has been expanded to about 3,000 as it will be allowed in a broader range of premises licensed to serve liquor – with or without poker machines – as well as wagering outlets. Also, any tension that might exist because of the joint venture will cease with keno being licensed to a single entity, Tabcorp. And as Tabcorp already operates keno successfully in the states of New South Wales and Queensland, it has both a business model which is successful and a system approved which can be expanded into Victoria."
This same position was provided to the International Association of Gaming Advisors. One wonders why Mr Cohen is spruicking an investment in Tabcorp.

Mr Cohen also knew what was in the secret management agreements that practically control so many pokie venues. The VCGR, when Mr Cohen, was in charge was reported to be investigating the goings on at the Richmond Tavern (licensed to a basketball club that had ceased to ay basketball years earlier) when pokies were withdrawn from this venue yet the same North Melbourne Giants basketball club (whose address is the same as the giant Woolworths / Mathieson joint venture) apparently applied for 30 pokie entitlements.

I am not aware of any investigation report even though the "ripping out" happened over a year ago. While not critical of anything relating to the Richmond Tavern, the Victorian Auditor General's report into was critical of many other things surrounding the auction of pokie entitlements.

Annexed to the Auditor General's report is a letter from the present VCGR Chairman explaining inconsistencies in some of its information recorded for venue operators.

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