Counsel assisting an inquiry into The Star Sydney’s suitability to retain its NSW casino license has called on Star to be found unsuitable.
Delivering closing submissions following two-and-a-half months of public hearings, Naomi Sharp SC told the inquiry on Tuesday that Star had demonstrated failures across multiple levels of the business and asked inquiry-lead Adam Bell SC to follow the examples set by recent inquiries into fellow casino operator Crown Resorts in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia. All three found Crown unsuitable but provided a pathway for them to return to suitability.
“We submit that the evidence in the public hearing establishes that the Star is not suitable to hold the casino licence and that its close associate Star Entertainment is not suitable either,” Sharp said, adding that the company was a long way from being a suitable operator.
“There has not yet been the period of deep reflection which of course will be necessary in order to develop a concrete plan about what … can bring these corporations into a position of suitability.”
“It is not enough to bring a corporation into suitability simply to terminate the employment of, or part company with a number of senior officers,” she said.
“There is more to the question of suitability than particular individuals within the corporation.”
The review, prompted by allegations aired by local Australian media outlets late last year, has seen a raft of issues raised around Star’s relationship with Asian junket promoters, including liberties granted to then-leading junket Suncity Group in operating its own VIP room at The Star Sydney and the illegal use of China UnionPay cards by Star to disguise gambling transactions.
Similar findings around the use of China UnionPay cards by fellow Australian casino operator Crown Resorts saw Crown whacked with an AU$80 million fine by Victoria’s gaming regulator this week.
Star has already suspended all domestic and international rebate play programs in the wake of issues raised by the review, while a number of directors and senior executives have fallen on their sword.
During her closing submissions, Sharp praised some departed directors, including Bekier, for being “frank and candid” when giving evidence but others didn’t fare quite so well, with Chief Financial Officer Harry Theodore described as being “very reluctant to make confessions.” Former The Star Sydney Managing Director Greg Hawkins was also accused by Sharp of giving “less than complete testimony” and of having a track record of giving “false evidence” during the Bergin inquiry into Crown Resorts in 2020.
The final report by Adam Bell SC is due to be submitted to ILGA by 31 August 2022.