Star Entertainment CCO denies company had strategy to pay less tax

The public hearings into The Star Sydney will continue until August 31.
The public hearings into The Star Sydney will continue until August 31.

New South Wales’ inquiry into The Star Sydney heard that the casino allegedly pointed local players to an international rebate scheme for tax breaks.

Australia.- In his second day giving evidence, Star Entertainment Group’s NSW chief casino officer Greg Hawkins told the New South Wales inquiry into the company that where was no deliberate strategy of migrating players to its international refund programme to pay lower local taxes.

Lawyers pointed out that casinos had a significant commercial advantage in switching players to the Rebate program. However, Hawkins denied the claims and said the casino operator did not want the practice to happen collectively because it damaged the venue’s commercial standing, as profits from local customers were often higher than those from rebate players.

He admitted, however, that some staff on the main gaming floor were tasked with getting eligible players to sign up for the international rebate programme. Players eligible for the International Tax Rebate Scheme are limited to staying in Australia for no more than 183 days a year, but Naomi Sharp SC said the rule was breached when borders were closed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The NSW gaming regulator asked Hawkins to assess the residency status of several patrons over the pandemic period, but there were problems with the casino’s rebate audit on seven players as Hawkins said that casino workers did not think it had to be completed, the inquiry was told.

Naomi Sharp SC also questioned Hawkins about the use of China UnionPay cards for gambling purposes. Hawkins acknowledged that the operator had put in place a procedure to evade a ban on using the cards for gambling purposes.

Former CEO Matt Bekier to face Star Entertainment inquiry

Former Star Entertainment Group chief executive Matt Bekier, who stepped down as CEO of the company following issues raised at the public hearings, will also testify this week.

This week the inquiry also received Star Entertainment’s senior vice president of advanced service operations, Mark Walker, who was questioned about his deal with VIP player and iProsperity director Michael Gu, who gambled large sums at The Star in 2018 and 2019. Gu is reported to have fled Australia after iProsperity collapsed under its debts in July 2020.

Counsel assisting Penelope Abdiel asked Walker about a meeting he attended at Gu’s office in 2019 to discuss delayed casino payments. Gu is said to have shown him a $100m bank balance of investor money, which Walker said he believed was an attempt by Gu to “show off”.

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