The Star allowed man linked to mafia to gamble in Queensland, inquiry hears

The man became one of the top 10 players at the Star Gold Coast.
The man became one of the top 10 players at the Star Gold Coast.

A suspected member of an Italian crime syndicate who was banned from NSW and Victorian casinos was allowed to gamble at Star’s Gold Coast and Brisbane casinos.

Australia.- On the third day of public hearings into the Star Entertainment Group’s Queensland casinos, the inquiry heard that a patron who was banned from casinos in New South Wales and Victoria and who was allegedly linked to the Italian mafia was allowed to gamble at the venues.

Howard Steiner, Star’s anti-money laundering general manager, told the inquiry the company decided not to ban the man because he had not been charged with any crime. However, Steiner noted that the customer would have been banned under the company’s current policies.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the suspected man, referred to as Person 2, was a ’Ndrangheta member who had been banned from Victorian casinos in December 2014 and banned from NSW casinos in June 2015. The man became one of the top 10 players at the Star Gold Coast.

Investigations revealed that Person 2’s name was spelt differently in casino records and in media reports, so Star’s anti-money laundering system didn’t pick up on it. Additionally, Star’s anti-money laundering team saw media articles about high-value casino customers, but couldn’t read them all because they didn’t subscribe to the publications.

Steiner said issues with the spelling of names in the media have been fixed, so Star’s system now identifies similarly spelt names among high-value customers and flags them for review.

Geoff Hogg, Star interim chief executive, added that people with interstate bans should have been excluded earlier from all Star casinos, no matter the state. Star changed its policies in 2019 to recognise exclusion orders from interstate police commissioners. Since then, banning orders have been recognised nationally.

On the first day of public hearings, Counsel assisting Jonathan Horton QC began proceedings saying that people with gambling-harm-related issues were encouraged to visit the Queensland casino.

Horton told the hearing: “There’s the issue of some persons being actively encouraged to come to Queensland and being given benefits to do so, even though — and this might be an understatement — red flags existed, which ought to have led to their exclusion, let alone not inducing the person to be here.”

The inquiry was also told 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