October 7, 2022 | By Bronwen Largier
The Star Entertainment Group, which operates The Star Gold Coast and Treasury Brisbane and has a major stake in the multi-billion-dollar Queen’s Wharf development in Brisbane, has been found unsuitable to hold a gaming licence by a second Australian state, in as many months.
The finding comes after the Queensland government commissioned a review, undertaken by Robert Gotterson AO, a former judge in the Queensland Court of Appeal, in which Gotterson found multiple “failings and concerns” related to The Star’s operations in Queensland.
Issues highlighted in Gotterson’s report, which was made public by the state government yesterday, include “some efforts” by The Star to pass off some transactions from China UnionPay, a Chinese bank card, as hotel expenses when funds were actually being used to gamble, actively encouraging gamblers banned by police from casinos in other states to visit their Queensland casinos, ongoing “serious deficiencies” in The Star’s anti-money laundering program, despite expert advice, and actions by the casino being “indicative of a one-eyed focus on profit and money”.
In his report, Gotterson also expressed concern that The Star would return to junket operations, which “pose particular inherent risks of involving the casino in money laundering…in the pursuit of future commercial objectives”. Gotterson notes that a similar finding was made in the recent review of The Star Sydney in New South Wales.
Queensland’s Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman said that following the findings of Gotterson’s report, the government had reached the same conclusion.
“Considering the serious and concerning findings of the Gotterson Review and his advice regarding suitability, I have formed the view that The Star is unsuitable to hold a licence in Queensland,” Fentiman said.
“In accordance with the legislation, once a formal determination of unsuitability is made, The Star will be given the opportunity to respond to that finding through a show cause process.
“Following the show cause process, a range of remedial actions will be available to Government, including fines, suspending or cancelling licenses, and as recommended by Mr Gotterson, appointing a special manager, as has been done in Victoria.”
Gotterson made 12 recommendations as part of his report, all of which the government has agreed to in principle. Many of the recommendations relate to increased supervision and oversight of casino operations, paid for by the casinos.
The state government also indicated they will be raising the maximum financial penalty for casino wrongdoing to $100 million, an action which has already been taken in several other Australian states.
While Gotterson found The Star’s casinos in Queensland “have been operated in a way that is inconsistent with the achievement of the objectives of the Casino Control Act” he did note that the organisation cooperated fully with his review, saving the inquiry a significant amount of time.
“It reflects favourably on The Star that it candidly disclosed matters which were not to its advantage in the course of this Inquiry and Review,” he wrote.
The Star has said it is considering the report and will continue to work cooperatively with the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation in Queensland.