A public inquiry initiated by the gambling regulatory body of New South Wales (NSW) has heard that Star Entertainment Group is unfit to hold the operating licence for its Sydney casino.
The inquiry has heard allegations of fraud, money laundering and criminal infiltration at the casino. During the probe, which has been investigating the Australian gambling giant’s suitability to continue running its Sydney casino, a number of top executives resigned from their positions in the company.
In late March, Matt Bekier, CEO and managing director, resigned from the company’s board, explaining that he had decided to take responsibility for the misconduct that was unveiled by the inquiry. The weeks after his departure have seen several other key figures, including CFO Harry Theodore, CCO Greg Hawkins, Chairman John O’Neill, and Chief legal and risk officer Paula Martin, resign from their positions in the company.
Earlier today, Naomi Sharp SC – the counsel assisting the investigation – delivered a severely critical assessment of the casino’s procedures, including extremely serious failures in risk management frameworks, improper supervision of the VIP team, as well as unethical behaviour within the legal team. According to Ms Sharp SC, it was the board of Star Entertainment that was responsible for all the aforementioned failures.
Several Key Executives Leave Star Entertainment Following Fraud, Money Laundering and Criminal Infiltration Allegations
Ms Sharp, however, remains doubtful that the departure of top executives from the gambling giant would allow Star Entertainment to remain operational. According to her, the departure of senior officers is not a measure serious enough to bring a corporation into suitability, because the matters of suitability were much more complex than being linked to particular individuals working within the corporation.
Furthermore, she noted that given the large number of executives that have voluntarily left the gambling company, it was not necessary to make findings about their suitability.
Ms Sharp SC called for the lead investigator, Adam Bell SC, to take a more nuanced look at the Australian gambling giant’s corporate responsibility. According to her, such an approach would take into account the leaders of the company but would also take them within the broader context of Star Entertainment’s risk management, governance, and overall culture. She outlined a total of 26 areas that would be addressed in her closing argument, describing the casino operating permit held by The Star Sydney as a privilege that provided the company with the chance to earn very substantial revenue but the casino operator was supposed to meet a number of important responsibilities.
Naomi Sharp SC shared that although no suitability test for holding a casino licence was held, the guidelines that were previously set out during the inquiries of Commissioners Bergin and Finkelstein into Crown Resorts could be used as guidance. The counsel assisting the investigation into the Sydney casino’s operations of Star Entertainment noted that casino companies are expected to obey the country’s legislation and cooperate with local regulatory bodies, prevent the occurrence of illegal or immoral behaviour, act honestly and not exploit customers, and be proactive in tackling gambling-related harm.
The investigation into Star Entertainment found that the Australian gambling giant had fallen short to comply with several code of conduct requirements.
Olivia Cole has worked as a journalist for several years now. Over the last couple of years she has been engaged in writing about a number of industries and has developed an interest for the gambling market in the UK.