Star Entertainment review to become public

By Charlotte Lee Updated
Star Sydney has a new CEO

The report of a review into Australia’s second largest casino, Star Entertainment, will be available to the public.

Asia Gaming Brief reports the independent review will look into Star’s suitability to hold a casino licence in Sydney.

Adam Bell SC will conduct the hearings, which commence on March 17.

To date, the review has been undertaken behind closed doors, however Bell now considers that some topics need witnesses to give public evidence.

NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority chair Philip Crawford said Bell was appointed to conduct the review with the powers, authorities, protections and immunities of a royal commission.

“Mr Bell’s review will consider how effectively The Star is complying with its statutory obligations and whether it remains suitable to hold a casino licence,” Crawford said.

“This includes examining to what extent the casino is free from the infiltration of criminal interests such as money laundering and how well it is administering its obligations to minimise gaming harms.

“The Star is responsible for ensuring adequate anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing systems are in place and for thoroughly vetting and managing relationships with close associates, junket partners and high rollers.”

Findings of Adam Bell SC’s inquiry expected in June

The findings from the inquiry will be released in June.

“We have every confidence that the review will thoroughly investigate The Star’s current operations, compliance with its statutory obligations and make appropriate recommendations for remedial action if necessary,” he said.

Bell was a key figure in the Bergin Inquiry into Crown Resorts, which ultimately found the company unsuitable to hold a casino licence for its new property in Sydney.

The report into The Star followed an investigative report by three of Australia’s leading news outlets that uncovered similar lapses in corporate governance as those found at Crown.

Local media in Australia has said that one day of the key witnesses being called is Chinese billionaire Philippine Dong Fang Lee, a high roller at the Star, who is alleged to have used Star’s China Union Pay card system to move “millions” from China to Australia in 2014 and 2015.

The news outlet said it was informed by multiple sources aware of the inquiry’s focus that the inquiry will look at whether Lee used the system to move funds from China to Australia to purchase property.

The witness list will also have two former Star executives, Paul McWilliams and Tarnya O’Neill, who commissioned an internal audit by KPMG which warned The Star was failing to combat money laundering in 2018.

High roller address scheme revealed by inquiry

In February, Star Entertainment was alleged to have encouraged local high rollers to falsely claim they lived outside of New South Wales, as part of a scheme that minimised the amount of gaming tax the casino paid the state government.

The revelations came from two insiders who worked at The Star Sydney casino and confirmed their direct involvement in a practice that encouraged big local punters to obtain documentation to make it appear they resided overseas or interstate, even though they lived in NSW.

The players were told if they could meet the checklist of requirements to apply for non-NSW gaming status, such as current interstate driver’s licence or recent passport visa stamps, they could gain access to lucrative rebate programs.

The program involved The Star paying high rollers a small cut of their gambling turnover.

The effect of the practice was that The Star Sydney may have paid millions of dollars less in gaming revenue to the NSW government.

Under a deal struck with the NSW government, The Star Sydney pays a discounted tax rate of about 10 per cent on revenue it generates from non-local VIP gamblers who are part of these rebate programs.

Revenue generated by local players at The Star is taxed at more than double the discounted rate.

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