Details emerge of Queensland’s review in Star casinos

By Mia Chapman Updated
Details emerge of Queensland’s review in Star casinos

Justice Robert Gotterson AO has been tasked with leading a review into The Star’s two Queensland casinos.

The Brisbane Times reports the inquiry will have the power to directly question Star employees or other relevant people, take submissions and hold public hearings, similar to a NSW inquiry that is weighing up evidence about the company’s fitness for its Sydney licence.

The Queensland probe will look at the casinos’ commitment to anti-money laundering responsibilities, management of VIP patrons, efforts to help Chinese nationals bypass gambling restrictions, exclusions of banned patrons and its approach to harm minimisation.

“Without limiting the scope, the inquiry is not required to inquire into particular matters that have been sufficiently and appropriately dealt with by the NSW review,” the terms of reference state, while outlining its ability to seek evidence gleaned from that probe.

“Evidence presented during NSW public hearings raises significant concerns regarding the operations of The Star Sydney and, given the shared governance and operational arrangements, the conduct of Star Group entities more broadly.”

Inquiry to deliver report by September 30

The inquiry will be assisted by Jonathan Horton QC and is expected to report to Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman by September 30, less than a month after the final NSW report is due.

It will comprise three elements: whether Star’s operations in the state are consistent with law,whether Star is fit to hold the licences for its Brisbane and Gold Coast casinos, and whether there are further means to “restore public confidence in casino operations” after recent inquiries found rival crown was unfit to hold its interstate licences.

In a later statement, shadow attorney-general Tim Nicholls said he believed the terms of reference did not go far enough to address the role of unions, lobbyists and the government.

Nicholls said he would write to Gotterson requesting the scope be broadened to “see the whole picture” and public hearings be used as the primary method of information gathering.

In a recent submission to move to tighten casino regulation in the state, Star sought to distance its Queensland sites from its NSW operations, and pushed back on some proposed measures, including the ability to apply new financial penalties for past breaches.

Queensland police and other law enforcement agencies first launched investigations at least eight months ago.

Fentiman recently suggested there was still a pathway for Star to anchor the $3.6 billion Queen’s Wharf development, due to open in Brisbane’s CBD in mid-2023.

It was announced in late June that Tyro Payments boss Robbie Cooke would be its next chief executive in an appointment the group hoped would “restore confidence”.

Previous chief executive Matt Bekier and chairman John O’Neill both resigned amid the failures by the group aired in the NSW inquiry.

Lawyers assisting the inquiry argued Star should not hold a casino licence until it had fully addressed its internal culture and reluctance to admit wrongdoing.

Proceeds of crime deposited at Queensland and NSW casinos

A man has travelled to some of Australia’s biggest casinos with stacks of cash wrapped in rubber bands or in hidden boxes and deposited the funds, but they were from the proceeds of crime, valued at more than $1 million.

In February, the Brisbane Times reported that Andre Gimenez Barbosa has pleaded guilty to dealing with proceeds of crime after Australian Federal Police launched an investigation after being alerted to his behaviour at Queensland and New South Wales casinos.

Barbosa was sentenced to six years in prison, but will be eligible for parole after serving one year.

Judge Helen Bowskill said she took into account Barbosa’s lack of other criminal history, his otherwise good character, his co-operation with detectives and his good prospects of rehabilitation.

Barbosa was arrested on December 11, 2018, after federal officers executed a search warrant.

The police investigation began in August 2018, when the AFP was alerted to large deposits being made at The Star Casino in Sydney and on the Gold Coast, as well as at Treasury Casino in Brisbane.

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