A three-way report by Australian media outlets The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes alleges local casino operator Star Entertainment Group has mirrored its local rival Crown Resorts by enabling suspected money laundering, organized crime, fraud and foreign interference.
The allegations were aired Sunday night Australian time and claim Star, operator of The Star Sydney, The Star Gold Coast and Treasury Brisbane, has long cultivated high-roller gamblers with links to organized crime while ignoring red flags over the source of client funds.
In particular, the media outlets point to a report by international auditor KPMG, commissioned by Star and presented to its Board of Directors, which outlined apparent failings in Star’s anti-money laundering procedures. The report warned that Star’s AML procedures do “not consider terrorism financing as required by the AML-CTF [anti-money-laundering and counter-terrorism financing] Act,” that its assessments of certain gamblers “appear to understate the level of money-laundering risk” and that the company had “no documented money-laundering risk assessment, or risk-assessment methodology” to be applied to Asian junket operators.
The Age, The SMH and 60 Minutes also claim Star allowed Chinese high-rollers to use debit cards such as Union Pay to withdraw “hundreds of millions of dollars in funds” from Star hotels for gambling purposes as a means of avoiding detection. A similar practice was found to have occurred in Melbourne during the recent Royal Commission into Crown Melbourne’s suitability to retain its casino license.
Crown has already been found unsuitable to hold a license in Sydney pending a variety of changes to its corporate practices and faces another Royal Commission into its Western Australian casino, Crown Perth.
Sunday’s report alleges that Star allowed some high rollers to continue to gamble despite concerns over their conduct, and that others were permitted to gamble at The Star Gold Coast despite being banned by police from entering casinos in New South Wales or Victoria.
It also claims Star continued to deal with Asian junkets well into 2020 despite investigations into Crown casting doubts over their operations.
Star Entertainment Group Chairman John O’Neill told media in February this year that the company was “out of the junket business until further notice” but didn’t rule out rekindling junket relationships in the future.
The timing of these allegations is notable, coming just hours before Greater Sydney came out of lockdown after more than 100 days and with Commissioner Ray Finkelstein due to hand down his findings from the Royal Commission into Crown Melbourne this week.
Star issued a statement early Monday morning in which it said it was “concerned by a number of assertions within the media reports that it considers misleading.”
The company said it was constrained from publicly discussing specific individuals names in the reports but that it would “address all allegations with relevant state and federal regulators and authorities, including Mr Adam Bell SC who is undertaking a regular review of The Star Sydney in accordance with the Casino Control Act 1992 (NSW).”
The NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority (ILGA) revealed in September that it has asked the same lawyer who grilled Crown Resorts over such issues during last year’s Bergin inquiry to conduct the regular review into The Star Sydney.