Some observers say Star inquiry should scrutinise Queensland casino regulator

The public hearings into The Star Sydney ended on August 31.
The public hearings into The Star Sydney ended on August 31.

Some say the inquiry into the Star Entertainment Group should also have examined the state’s casino regulator.

Australia.- The Queensland inquiry into the Star Entertainment Group has come to an end, but some argue it should also look into the state casino regulator’s actions over the casino operator’s suspicious activities. Several industry analysts have said the investigation should also have focused on the Office of Gaming and Liquor Regulation’s role.

David Green, a casino regulation consultant, stated: “You really have to get the whole regulatory environment examined to say, ‘Well, why have these risks materialised in an environment which claims to have controlled them?'”

Ben Lee, a casino consultant in Macau, said: “If the Queensland government really was interested in cleaning up whatever mess there may be, they should really open up the scope.”

However, Tim Nicholls, Queensland’s shadow attorney-general, told ABC the commissioner didn’t have the power to call the Office of Gaming and Liquor Regulation for evidence. He said: “The government must act to broaden the terms of the scope of the inquiry that’s currently underway.”

A few days ago, the Alliance for Gambling Reform and local media urged authorities to widen the current inquiry into The Star Entertainment Group to other casino operators. That was after Channel 9’s 60 Minutes reported that Ville Casino and Resort in Townsville paid an alleged illegal junket operator cash and loyalty points to bring in high rollers.

However, Queensland Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman has rejected the calls to broaden the inquiry. She noted that the current inquiry was already broader than the Bell inquiry into The Star Sydney. Nonetheless, Fentiman said the current inquiry could still make recommendations about the role of the regulator in its final report due at the end of the month. 

On the last days of public hearings the Star Entertainment Group was asked about gifts it gave to a suspicious high roller, including tickets to a Village People concert, to encourage him to play at the casino. The gambler, who was banned from NSW casinos by the state police chief, was also given a private flight, an AU$50,000 Rolex watch and a birthday cake.

Star Entertainment’s interim CEO Geoff Hogg told the inquiry that his company relied on what it now admits was incorrect legal advice that it could not immediately deport customers banned from interstate casinos.

Hogg told the inquiry: “I do accept that our policies and procedures were not strong enough and those people should have been excluded earlier.”

It was also discovered that Chinese nationals were able to gamble using China UnionPay credit or debit cards, despite Chinese restrictions on currency movement. According to Horton, some AU$55m was transacted in Star Queensland casinos using the process. However, he noted the sum is lower than that detected in New South Wales.

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The Star Entertainment Group