Queensland casinos probe commences

By Noah Taylor Updated
Queensland casinos probe commences

A review into Star Entertainment’s Queensland casino operations is underway, with retired Supreme Court judge Robert Gotterson leading proceedings.

The Courier Mail reports the initial public hearing heard the terms of reference and outlined the three parts the external review would examine. That is, an inquiry into the operation of Star’s Queensland casinos, advice on the ongoing suitability of Star to hold a casino licence, and enhanced regulation.

Among the issues the inquiry was set to delve into were the group’s commitment to anti-money laundering practices, management of VIP patrons and high-rollers and whether the casinos actively lured patrons who had been banned from Sydney Star Casino.

“I would encourage those who have information relevant to the terms of reference to provide that information by making contact with the solicitor’s assisting the review,” Mr Gotterson said.

“If that material is such as it requires it to be explored with witnesses, it should be provided as soon as possible.”

The group operates The Star Gold Coast and the Treasury Casino in Brisbane, and is also behind the $3.6 billion Queen’s Wharf development set to open early next year.

Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman first flagged the independent probe in June, and announced the inquiry would have “all the powers, authorities, rights, privileges, protection and jurisdiction of a commission of inquiry”.

“There have been serious allegations made, along with a number of public inquiries and regulator investigations over recent years,” Ms Fentiman said.

“Given the weight of evidence that has emerged regarding the operations of The Star Sydney and the shared governance and operational arrangements of Star Group more broadly, it is important the inquiry can seek information from anyone it sees fit.”

This would include Mr Gotterson being permitted to interview and directly question Star employees, as well as review evidence given to the ongoing New South Wales Bell Review and ongoing investigations by the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation.

Lawyers for The Star told the hearing it would “be fully cooperating with this inquiry”.

Counsel assisting the review Jonathan Horton QC said: “One key question we want to ask is this: to what extent were any problems in NSW ones which came over the border either because of common governance and practices or by gamblers excluded there benign allowed entry to casinos here or even being encouraged or incentivised to do so?”

Queensland’s casino laws under review

One of the terms of reference included looking at enhanced regulation, pointing out Queensland’s current Casino Control Act was passed in 1982 and based on a New Jersey regime from the 1970s.

A question surrounded whether the Queensland system was apt for today’s environment.

“This regulatory regime is one which was thought to always need constant diligence and fine-tuning,” Mr Horton said.

“One particular aspect we are interested in exploring is whether there ought to be periodic external reviews.

“At present, this is not a feature of the Queensland regime. But it does exist, for example, in NSW.

“It might give the ability to do a real due diligence from time to time on the operations of casinos and their operators to check they remain lawful, orderly and act with integrity.”

Some key functions of Star that seemed to be common across the states included the treasury division, which oversaw bank accounts, or the legal division.

“We mention these factors because in closing oral submissions to the Bell inquiry, the Star Pty Limited accepted that the evidence there in that context permits findings of significant deficiencies and failings due to behaviour not in adherence to the company’s code of conduct and related risk and compliance policies approved by the board,” Mr Horton said.

He pointed out that since the NSW inquiry, Star’s board had largely resigned along with many people in senior management at the casino giant.

“One would hope there’s a sense of beginning afresh, down a different path,” he said.

The inquiry was adjourned until August 23, with the review due to deliver its report to Ms Fentiman by September 30.

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