February 8, 2023 | By Bronwen Largier

Headwinds for Australia’s casinos are continuing in 2023, with The Star Entertainment Group now facing four class actions and SkyCity Adelaide having its state-commissioned independent review put on hold pending the outcome of Federal Court proceedings against it by financial crimes watchdog AUSTRAC.

The Star has informed shareholders of two more class actions launched against it this week on behalf of shareholders, for misleading representations about its systems and processes for compliance with anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing obligations.

A class action brought by Shine Lawyers in the Supreme Court of Victoria relates to a period between March 2016 and May 2022 while an action launched by Phi Finney McDonald, also in Victoria’s Supreme Court relates to a period between March 2016 and June 2022.

The Star has indicated these actions have considerable overlap with class actions launched against the business in 2022 by Slater and Gordon and Maurice Blackburn and that it intends to defend both new cases.

Meanwhile the state-commissioned independent review into the suitability of SkyCity Adelaide to hold a gaming licence in South Australia has been put on hold, pending the outcome of AUSTRAC proceedings against the casino, which allege, broadly, that SkyCity Adelaide failed to properly assess its money laundering and terrorism financing risks and did not have the appropriate risk-based systems and controls to mitigate these risks.

Amongst the more detailed statements from AUSTRAC, documents show there were transactions taking place at SkyCity Adelaide which involved large amounts of cash, some of which was dirty or looked like it had been buried.

South Australia’s liquor and gambling commissioner Dini Soulio confirmed he had placed the review by retired supreme court judge Brian Martin on hold until the Federal Court had resolved AUSTRAC’s civil penalties case.

“While Mr Martin’s investigation has been separate from the proceedings initiated by AUSTRAC in the Federal Court against SkyCity, there is clearly some overlap that will need to be considered,” said Soulio.

“Mr Martin has advised that until the resolution of the AUSTRAC proceedings, it is not possible to determine reliably the question of suitability. On that basis, I have put on hold the investigation with regard to an overall determination of suitability.”

AUSTRAC also has a case against The Star Entertainment Group in Federal Court.