Star’s VIP rebate program ends immediately

By Ethan Anderson Updated
Star Sydney has a new CEO

The Star Entertainment Group’s VIP rebate programs will be suspended as an inquiry into the company’s suitability to run its Sydney casino continues.

The ABC reports the rebate programs are often used to attract high-spending gamblers to their tables.

“The board has resolved to immediately suspend rebate programs for both domestic and international players across all its casinos until further notice,” it said in a statement to the ASX.

“The star will work with gaming regulators to address various identified risks as part of ongoing reviews of systems and processes.”

It also reaffirmed its commitment to not dealing with junkets while it addresses the issues arising from the ongoing review.

It had ended all junket programs in October 2020.

The Star said its decision would not have a material impact on 2021-2022 financial earnings.

It comes as Richard Sheppard became the first director to appear before the inquiry, following six weeks of public questioning of executives.

Mr Sheppard, the former director of Macquarie Bank, was accused of being “careless” in not checking the facts before approving ASX updates.

Sheppard fronts inquiry 

The inquiry heard Mr Sheppard approved two statements last October that rebuffed media reports that stated a KPMG report into The Star’s anti-money laundering program was “kept secret”.

He maintained the statements were accurate despite not stating that some of the media allegations were correct.

Counsel assisting the inquiry, Naomi Sharp SC, questioned whether Mr Sheppard was made aware that AUSTRAC repeatedly asked for the KPMG report and The Star refused to provide it.

“No I wasn’t aware of that,” Mr Sheppard said.

“I assumed the KPMG report was provided to AUSTRAC.”

Ms Sharp asked whether it was correct Mr Sheppard provided “an ASX announcement to be released even though you had not established yourself that an allegation was incorrect but you prepared to assert that it was incorrect?”

“I certainly didn’t think the report had been kept secret,” Mr Sheppard responded.

“It’s a bit careless to be releasing it in these terms isn’t it?” Ms Sharp asked.

He said the KPMG report was “not kept secret internally but I take your point.”

Mr Sheppard acknowledged the board was ultimately responsible for setting the culture of the organisation.

Resignations plague Star as inquiry continues

He confirmed John O’Neill would remain as executive chair for the time being.

The review, being conducted by Adam Bell SC, has heard evidence of a secret junket room operating at the casino, senior managers turning a blind eye to money laundering risks and misleading the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority and the National Australia Bank.

Recently, three executives resigned following revelations from the inquiry.

Chief financial officer Harry Theodore, chief casino officer Greg Hawkins and chief legal and risk officer and company secretary Paula Martin tendered their resignations.

The Star announced Christina Katsibouba had been appointed the interim chief financial officer, replacing Mr Theodore and Geoff Hogg would assume the role of interim Chief Casino Officer in NSW and Queensland, while permanent replacements were found.

The departures follow the resignation of CEO Matt Bekier in March.

The Star also said it engaged external advisors and continues its work to further improve its systems and processes while cooperating fully with the review.

Back to top