October 17, 2022 | By Bronwen Largier

Following The Star Sydney being found unsuitable to hold a casino licence in New South Wales last month after an extensive review of its operations, the NSW Independent Casino Commission (NICC) has suspended The Star’s gaming licence and fined the business $100 million.

However, the casino will continue operating, with the NICC appointing an independent manager, Nick Weeks, to oversee the gaming operations at The Star while its licence is suspended.

Weeks recently spent just over a year with The Star Entertainment Group’s main Australian rival, Crown Resorts, as its executive general manager of transformation and regulatory response. Weeks has indicated he was recently appointed as an expert advisor to the NICC through Wexted Advisors.

“The suspension comes into effect Friday 21 October 9.00am when the manager starts in the role,” said NICC chief commissioner Philip Crawford.

“The NICC has resolved that it is no longer in the public interest that The Star should remain in control of that licence, and that The Star is not currently suitable to be the holder of the licence.

“The Star’s current board and executive understand the gravity of Bell’s findings. They have publicly apologised and acknowledged the serious wrongdoing that occurred, and they are willing to co-operate with the regulator.”

Adam Bell SC oversaw the review of The Star through late 2021 and into 2022 and in his report found The Star to be unsuitable to hold a casino licence.

The review report details suggestions that money laundering and facilitation of organised crime were likely occurring at the casino through third parties and that The Star’s management was not taking appropriate steps to minimise the risk of this taking place on their premises.

However, in today’s announcement Crawford said The Star appeared to be genuinely determined to reform its operations.

“The Star’s public communications to shareholders and its submission to the NICC’s show cause notice have demonstrated genuine contrition and a desire to work openly and transparently with the NICC to try to preserve the licence and protect the many jobs that depend on it being operable.

“If it were not for The Star’s change in attitude and our belief that it is in the public interest to protect the thousands of jobs at risk, there might have been a different outcome.”

Today’s announcement coincides with the first day in the job for the new CEO of The Star Entertainment Group, Robbie Cooke, who has moved over from Tyro Payments where he was CEO. Cooke has gained full approval to undertake his role in Queensland but is yet to receive all the approvals necessary in NSW.

“I’m hopeful incoming CEO Robbie Cooke can apply his experience and leadership skills to guide the company towards suitability under the direction of the manager,” Crawford said.

“The appointment of Mr Weeks will allow casino operations to continue and his primary focus will be to ensure a robust root cause analysis and review of the casino’s culture is undertaken.

“The appointment of a manager does not mean the NICC believes The Star is suitable to hold a casino licence.

“At this point the NICC believes there is a possibility The Star can undertake the reforms necessary to give the NICC confidence it can start a remediation process with a view to becoming suitable.”

The Star Entertainment Group operates considerable event space in its Sydney casino complex as well as at The Star Gold Coast in Queensland, where it has also been found by the state government there to be unsuitable to hold its gaming licence.