Star not suitable to hold casino licence in Sydney, counsel tells inquiry

The public inquiry will continue this week.
The public inquiry will continue this week.

Counsel assisting the inquiry, Naomi Sharp SC, said resignations of senior officers were not enough to make the company suitable.

Australia.- Naomi Sharp SC, counsel assisting the New South Wales inquiry into The Star Entertainment Group, has said that having heard all testimony and evidence, she believes Star Entertainment Group is not suitable to hold a casino licence in Sydney.

Sharp says the casino operator displayed unethical behaviour within its legal team and engaged in dubious practices. Despite the resignation of several executives, she believes that the casino should not have a licence.

Sharp said: “One needs to have regard to the leaders of the organisation but also situate them within the broader context of the corporation’s governance, risk management and culture overall.”

In recent weeks, several board members have resigned from The Star Entertainment, including former executive chairman John O’Neill, chief executive Matt Bekier, chief financial officer Harry Theodore, chief casino officer Greg Hawkins and chief legal and risk officer Paula Martin.

Sharp told Adam Bell SC, who is leading the investigation, that the fact several executives had resigned was proof that the casino should not hold a licence. The inquiry will continue this week and the publicly available outcome is expected to be released by the end of June. 

Former Star chairman admits hiring unqualified executives

The Star Entertainment Group’s former executive chairman John O’Neil finally gave his testimony to the New South Wales inquiry last week. He admitted that compliance manager Graeme Stevens, chief legal and risk officer Paula Martin and investigations officer Kevin Houlihan were not qualified for their jobs.

O’Neil admitted that he was wrong to promote the three and said the company should have given more thought to training and upskilling them for the roles. Martin has resigned from the company after admitting she could have done more regarding money laundering at the Sydney casino. She agreed that the company misled National Australia Bank about the use of China UnionPay cards at Star Entertainment venues.

O’Neil told the inquiry: “She didn’t have sufficient background and experience in the risk and compliance space.”

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Star Entertainment Group