The Star Entertainment Group has copped a massive fine and been given 12 months to “get its house in order” and prove why it shouldn’t face a 90-day license suspension in Queensland.
The state’s Attorney-General and Justice Minister, Shannon Fentiman, announced on Friday the government had fined The Star $100 million in pecuniary penalties after it was found unsuitable in its practices in its Queensland casinos.
Ms Fentiman said The Star has until December 1, 2023 to improve its practices or face a 90-day licence suspension.
“These penalties have been considered very carefully following the damning findings of the Gotterson Review, as well as considering the responses by Star as part of the show cause process,” she said.
“These (penalties) aim to strike a balance in ensuring thousands of Queenslanders can remain employed, but also sending that very strong message that what happened here in Star Casinos is completely unacceptable.”
Star Entertainment was deemed “unsuitable” to hold casino licences in Queensland in October following the explosive findings of an independent report.
The expert review, led by Robert Gotterson, made 12 recommendations to enhance integrity, minimise potential for harm, ensure probity and restore public confidence in the operations of Queensland casinos.
The review was instigated in June to examine serious issues with the operation and governance arrangements of the Star Group.
“Clearly, what we saw coming out of the Gotterson Review was that one-eyed focus on profits, where they did not really resource their anti-money laundering policies (and) they did not take it seriously,” Ms Fentiman said.
“They allowed patrons excluded from NSW into Queensland casinos and they lied to the regulator and their bank about the nature of Chinese patrons’ actions.”
Ms Fentiman said the government has now responded by issuing the “significant pecuniary penalties” and hoped Star would use the next 12 months to get its casinos in working order.
“They will need to put in place remediation works within their company to ensure this never happens again and that there are strong checks and balances so that they are considered suitable to hold a license,” she said.
“It sends a very strong message to Star that they have to absolutely get this right and they have to absolutely get back to suitability.
“The 90 days is hanging over their heads so they get the remediation right and they return to suitability as soon as possible.
“Queensland casinos must operate with integrity – and it is clear there have been major failings by the Star group and its entities.
“Like many Queenslanders, I was appalled at the extent of the actions of The Star in welcoming excluded persons to their casinos and the exorbitant incentives on offer for questionable gamblers.”
The pecuniary action comes as work continues on the multibillion-dollar Queens Wharf development in the heart of Brisbane, which will feature a Star Casino.
With the development set to open in late 2023, Ms Fentiman said Star has to prove to the government it is suitable to operate the new casino.
“Destination Brisbane Consortium was not issued a show cause notice because they’re not in operation, but Star, being the major partner, have been found to be unsuitable,” she said.
“So now again, the future of Queens Wharf and the casino license is really in Star’s hands.
“They will have to do everything they can to become suitable by the time Queens Wharf wants to open.
“If they are doing well and getting close to suitability by the time casino wants to open, we will of course look at putting special conditions on their casino license; for example, to have a special manager in place.”
Ms Fentiman said those conversations will happen next year in the lead up to the casino opening to the public.
The government has also appointed Nicholas Weeks as an independent special manager to monitor The Star’s operations in Queensland, with the cost to be recouped from the relevant casino.
“Mr Weeks is currently the special manager currently in place in NSW; he was appointed by the independent NSW Casino Commission,” Ms Fentiman said.
“(He’s) a very experienced individual and I think given that Star is the one company, it makes sense that the special manager is working across NSW and Queensland.”
NSW Independent Casino Commission chief commissioner Philip Crawford said Mr Weeks’ appointment was a sensible approach.
“Installing Mr Weeks as Queensland’s special manager will underscore collaboration with our Queensland regulatory counterparts,” Mr Crawford said.
“This will ensure The Star acts consistently in compliance with its obligations – no matter which state they operate in.”
Mr Weeks will be assisted by Terri Hamilton, who has worked for SunSuper looking at counterterrorism and money laundering and will act as manager assisting in Queensland.
“Between the two of them, they will have oversight into all co-operations into Star,” Ms Fentiman said.
“I know they’ll begin doing a root cause into how these unlawful and criminal acts came to happen in Casinos.
“I think it makes sense to have that collaboration and cooperation between regulators across different states because it means the casino can’t play one regulator off against the other.”
Story Credit: news.com.au