Star executives receive hefty bonus payments

By Mia Chapman Updated
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Star Entertainment executives have received bonuses totalling more than $1.4 million, despite using the government’s JobKeeper wage subsidy to cover staff wages.

Brisbane Times reports The Star revealed on Wednesday it paid its chief executive Matt Bekier $2.3 million for the financial year, down from $3.3 million a year earlier and $4.4 million in 2018.

Mr Bekier’s base salary fell by $173,000 to $1.55 million after he took a 40 per cent pay cut when the coronavirus pandemic forced the group to shut its casinos in Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast and stand down 95 per cent of its 9000 workers.

Star awarded Mr Bekier a bonus of $829,872 in deferred shares among $1.4 million given to the group’s top five executives, according to Star’s annual report.

The bonuses were paid in equity to “preserve cash” and be available after a year if the executives stay with the company, the report says.

Star’s remuneration committee chair Sally Pitkin said the executive team did not meet their financial targets for the year because of COVID-19, but the board “decided to exercise its discretion” and issue the bonuses based on other measures.

That included the executive team’s response to the pandemic, the achievement of strategic goals and the need to retain key executives amid a period of “uncertainty” and competition from rival Crown Resorts’ new casino.

Ms Pitkin said the group was five per cent ahead of its profit target and up 16 per cent compared to the prior year in February before the forced closure of its casino pushed it to a $94 million full-year loss.

The Star said the group and about 7000 staff will have received almost $130 million in JobKeeper payments by the end of September.

Between April 1 and June 30, The Star received $9.6 million through the scheme to cover the wages of staff who continued to work at the casino and were earning above the minimum JobKeeper amount of $1500 a fortnight.

Another $55 million went directly to staff who were either stood down or working on reduced hours.

A Star spokesman said JobKeeper allowed it to return staff to work when it otherwise would not have been feasible.

“We were operating venues despite them not being profitable and across the final quarter made a substantial earnings loss,” he said.

In addition to JobKeeper, the company gave staff two weeks of paid “pandemic leave” at a cost of $19 million and has paid $3 million to staff ineligible for JobKeeper through a hardship program.

The executives’ equity bonuses equate to 40 per cent of cash bonuses available to them under their short-term incentive scheme.

Former Star gaming supervisor sentenced for fraud offences 

A man who took gambling chips from Star Casino has been sentenced by a Sydney court. 

The Daily Telegraph reported in September that Justin Ly took more than $90,000 worth of gambling chips from the casino, with the court told his scan was possible due to the complex’s poor security system. 

Mr Ly will spend the next eight months locked inside his Bonnyrigg home after he was sentenced for repeatedly manipulating dealers to hand over thousands of dollars’ worth of chips. 

The 23-year-old was employed as a gaming supervisor and would lie to dealers about a ‘customer’ – his criminal accomplice – who had gone to the bathroom and left behind a number of gambling chips, typically valued at about $7500. 

When the ‘customer’ would return, Ly would order the dealer to pay out the ‘owed’ money in chips. 

The scam was successfully executed dozens of times across months in 2019.

The court heard the scam was undertaken to fund Mr Ly’s own gambling addiction, which was already intense before he began working at the casino.

Magistrate Michael Antrum said the young man took advantage of what he believed was a “poor security system” and used his “knowledge of how the system operated. 

The Bonnyrigg man is now attending weekly sessions to address his gambling problem and is on a doctor-issued mental health plan, with a court-ordered report stating he is a low risk of reoffending.

Outside court, Mr Ly spoke of the crippling addiction which led him down the criminal path.

“Gambling is pretty bad, I guess that’s what made me do that,” he said.

Mr Ly was convicted of fraud by deception and placed on an eight-month intensive correction order, to be served by home detention. 

He was also ordered to repay Star $83,500.

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