The three-month review into Star Entertainment in Queensland is set to investigate numerous issues, including money laundering allegations and claims that Star Sydney banned players have been lured to gamble in the company’s casinos in Queensland.
Powers of a Royal Commission
The Queensland government announced earlier in the month that it would launch an inquiry into Star’s suitability to hold a license having previously refused to investigate the casino operator despite the number of issues related to money laundering and other violations revealed by the inquiry in New South Wales.
The inquiry will be led by former state Supreme Court judge Robert Gotterson who will exert the powers of a royal commission to summon evidence, cross-examine witnesses and schedule public hearings to determine whether Star Entertainment is fit to operate a casino, according to the terms of reference released by the government today.
Gotterson will be assisted by Jonathan Horton QC, the man behind Star’s license review in NSW in 2016, who will assist in the investigation of money laundering via the China UnionPay debit card scheme, as well as allegations of gambling harm.
The investigation will also probe into allegations that banned players at Star Sydney casino have been enticed to cross state borders and gamble at the company’s Queensland casinos.
Draw on Evidence from Star’s NSW Probe
Scheduled to complete at the end of September and deliver its findings to Queensland Attorney General Shannon Fentiman, the inquiry will be able to draw on evidence from the inquiry into Star in NSW which is expected to deliver its final report in late August.
The NSW inquiry already found the operator in breach of the state’s Unlawful Gambling Act due to allowing Suncity to operate an illegal cash cage at Star Sydney which facilitated AU$900 million ($621 million) of banned transactions via China UnionPay, giving reasons for the lawyers assisting the review to argue that the operator should be stripped of its casino license.
Commenting on the upcoming probe, Fentiman noted the serious allegations and the number of public inquiries and regulatory probes into the operator over the recent years.
She outlined that it is important for the inquiry that it is able to “seek information from anyone it sees fit” especially, in the light of the “weight of evidence” from Star Sydney and the “shared governance and operational arrangements” of Star Entertainment Group.
Fentiman also reiterated plans to strengthen the state’s gambling laws and to invest AU$4 million ($2.76 million) in the next four years into law enforcement at the casinos.
Yesterday, The Star Entertainment Group appointed Robert Cooke as its Managing Director and CEO to fill the void left by Matt Bekier who stepped down amid evidence of serious money laundering failures. The Board at Star is also expected to undergo significant changes.