Australia’s casino industry has been in the spotlight the past few years as the globally renowned Crown Resorts faced scrutiny and a series of consequences for being found guilty of improper practices. The surprising evidence and exposure of these violations resulted in a bigger crackdown on the country’s entire gaming industry. Four months ago, state regulator Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) made its intentions known to expand its probe to include other major operators including the Star Entertainment Group and SkyCity Entertainment Group.
Star Entertainment exposed
Interestingly, it would appear that Star Entertainment Group, which operates three properties The Star Sydney, The Star Gold Coast, and Treasury Brisbane, would find itself in a similar situation as its once strongest rival. Three media reports, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 minutes aired its allegations last Sunday night, exposing the gambling company of familiar faults as Crown was consequently in trouble for.
Highlighted among these violations was its decision to welcome Chinese high rollers tied with organized crime, drug trafficking or other money laundering and fraud-related concerns. These suspicious VIP players would be allowed “to use special Chinese debit and credit cards to withdraw hundreds of millions of dollars in funds from Star’s hotel properties in a manner which disguised gambling activity as hotel expenses.” Reported personalities include cocaine importer Mende Trajkoski who was found to have turned over $175 million throughout the past 14 years in The Star Sydney property, Canberra restaurateur James Mussillon also recently arrested for drug trafficking and money laundering charges, and its questionable ties with the world’s largest junket operator, Suncity, as well as other tour operatives linked to illegal activities.
While this remains to be a small pool of its top tier clientele, the Star Group instead wooed these high rollers with luxury gifts and exclusive hotel and travel accommodations despite their eyebrow-raising backgrounds. An internal audit as early as May 2018 additionally revealed Star’s failure “to combat the risk of money laundering, terrorism financing and corruption with its Sydney and Queensland casinos.” However, these practices would see to continue in recent cases 2020 and 2021, implying that the reports were left unacted upon.
Moving forward, Star will be under review by the same lawyer that tackled Crown Resorts’ Bergin Inquiry as requested by the NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority (ILGA) as revealed last September.
On Monday, Star responded to the ongoing issue with a statement on the Australian Stock Exchange in which it noted its concern “by a number of assertions within the media reports that it considers misleading” along with its premise to “take the appropriate steps to address all allegations with relevant state and federal regulators and authorities, including Mr Adam Bell SC who is undertaking a regular review of The Star Sydney in accordance with the Casino Control Act 1992 (NSW).”
“The Star operates in a heavily regulated industry. We are subject to thorough and ongoing regulatory oversight including compliance checks and reviews across the company’s operations in NSW and Queensland. The Star also notes the recommendations of the Bergin Inquiry, which were supported by the NSW Government on 18 August 2021. These recommendations will impact the regulation of casinos in NSW and are supported by The Star.”
Crown Sydney’s gaming license remain suspended
With Star Entertainment joining Australia news headlines, the ILGA took the time to remind the industry that the suspension of Crown Sydney’s gaming license continues to be in effect and that its stand on the issue remains firm. It was only this February where the major casino operator was deemed unfit to hold a NSW license after evidence showed that the company’s improper practices were undeniably true.
Following the suspension, Crown has made significant efforts to regain its suitability as highlighted by ILGA earlier in May. Confident that its gaming rooms would reopen this October, it appears locals would have to wait a bit more until its state of the art casino floor would be made available to the public.
“ILGA’s position on Crown Sydney’s gaming operations has not changed, with the Authority still monitoring and assessing Crown’s responses to the issues arising from the Bergin Report.”, stated the regulatory body”
“These issues are complex, and Crown is required to undertake significant change to satisfy the Authority that it is on a pathway to become suitable to hold a gaming licence. It will take further time for Crown to fully implement that change and for the Authority to give it proper consideration before making its determination”, it further added.