Queensland Casinos Face Junket Accusations

There are calls for the ongoing Gotterson Inquiry to extend its probe to other Queensland casinos and not only Star-owned properties.

Queensland casinos face more accusations of flouting regulations regarding working with junkets. Crown Resorts and Star Entertainment‘s former use of junkets caused major stirs over the past couple of years. Now other Queensland casinos are under the cosh, although they do not face a regulator-driven investigation.

The Channel 9 program 60 Minutes revealed two Queensland casinos use junkets to attract rich VIPs to play their casino games. Evidence shows The Ville in Townsville and Reef Hotel Casino in Cairns use at least one junket operator.

A 60 Minutes investigation revealed The Ville paid an alleged illegal junket operator cash and loyalty points to bring well-heeled customers who play high roller casino games. A spokesperson for The Ville denied any illegal activity, stating factual inaccuracies in 60 Minutes’ reports.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk claims she was unaware of the junket allegations, but will look into them. Tim Costello, the chief advocate of the Alliance for Gambling Reform, is disappointed in Palaszczuk’s response.

“60 Minutes is a national program; how can the Premier and her staff not be briefed on it? This is just the Premier being really head in the sand.”

Costello called for a full inquiry.

“The crime and the enabling of crime just flows from one casino to another, and there’s four casinos in Queensland so you can’t live in a bubble.”

Queensland Casinos Used VIP to Attract High Roller Players

The investigation into Queensland casinos comes on the back of the Gotterson Inquiry in the state. Former Court of Appeal judge Robert Gotterson heads the inquiry, which is looking into VIP patrons, high rollers, and junket operations at Star Entertainment’s The Star Gold Coast and Treasury Brisbane.

The Gotterson Inquiry heard how one Star customer played at its venues until January 2021 despite being banned from a Melbourne venue in December 2014 and one in New South Wales in 2015. In addition, Star admitted it concealed $55 million in prohibited gambling transactions from a Chinese bank.

It is not only junkets some Queensland casinos use, but also their VIP players. Paul Desmond came forward and gave his account of how The Ville asked him to bring in fellow high stakes players. Desmond was a VIP member at The Ville from 2016 to 2021. He alleges a senior executive approached him regarding luring high rollers to the casino. These players would then play some of the highest stakes casino games Australia offers.

He claims the casino only wanted players prepared to put $20,000 then $150,00 into their casino accounts. The casino would then fly the high rollers in a private jet to play roulette games, pokies, and other table games.

Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation (OLGR) Reiterates Its Stance

The Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation (OLGR) took the opportunity to reiterate its stance on junket operators.

“In September 2021, the OLGR advised all Queensland casinos with approved junket operators that all such approvals were considered expired and that no further junket operator arrangements should be entered without specific approval of the OLGR. Since this time, OLGR has not approved any junket operator arrangements, nor have there been any applications.”

Mr Desmond revealed he realised The Ville was essentially making him work as a junket. He calls for the ongoing inquiry to involve other Queensland casinos.

“At first I didn’t think of it as a junket or like we’re doing anything wrong. I knew a lot of high rollers and I was bringing people up anyway for free. I since found out that I’m not licenses and we can’t do that.”

“It’s just the whole corruption thing; they can get away with anything they want. They think they’re above the law or think they’re above the government. They’ve got people gambling in casinos that have criminal records and spending large amounts of cash, and they obviously know that and they still allow them.”