Star’s high-roller practices called into question

By Mia Chapman Updated
Star Sydney has a new CEO

Australian casino operator Star Entertainment is 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.

WA Today reports that two insiders who worked at The Star Sydney casino have 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.

Confidential sources report Star’s practices to ILGA

Two further confidential sources, who are also not authorised to speak publicly, confirmed the practice at The Star and that it had been reported to the NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority and to the Bell inquiry, a royal commission-style probe into The Star headed by leading barrister Adam Bell, SC.

The Bell inquiry announced it would be holding public hearings into The Star after revelations that poor governance and practices at The Star may have enabled suspected money laundering, organised crime, large-scale fraud and foreign interference within its Australian casinos.

Two sources said that one high roller who was approached to change this residential status was a lucrative “whale” gambler being pursued by the Australian Taxation Office over separate allegations he owes the federal government tens of millions of dollars.

One of the sources, a casino staff member who encouraged gamblers to alter their address, said some employees could maximise their bonuses by encouraging high rollers to change their residential status and therefore gamble more.

The question of who in The Star knew about the practice is likely to be examined by the Bell inquiry.

In response to a series of detailed questions sent to The Star about the scheme to change gamblers’ residential status, the company released a two-sentence statement.

“The Star runs a rebate program where the eligibility of domestic and international players is determined by criteria known to the regulator,” the statement said.

“The Star operates in a highly regulated environment.”

Underpaid gaming taxes almost triggered Crown Melbourne’s downfall 

The practice of encouraging gamblers to claim they lived outside NSW adds to the list of alleged practices The Star engaged in and will be examined by Mr Bell in public hearings starting in March.

Another issue certain to feature in Mr Bell’s proceedings is how the listed casino giant allowed Chinese high rollers to use special Chinese debit and credit cards to withdraw hundreds of millions of dollars from The Star’s hotel properties in a manner that disguised gambling activity as hotel expenses.

The process may have breached anti-money laundering guidelines or laws and is also being examined in an ongoing inquiry by anti-money laundering agency Austrac.

Similar practices at Crown Resorts’ Melbourne casino, which was found to have underpaid gaming taxes to the Victorian government and which allowed punters to use Chinese credit cards in breach of money-laundering guidelines, almost cost the Victorian gaming giant its casino licence.

In October 2021, it was revealed how between 2014 and 2021 The Star cultivated high-roller gamblers who were allegedly associated with criminal or foreign interference operations.

The practices were confirmed by multiple casino and law enforcement sources with knowledge of the company’s operations, including Star insiders.

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