Star Sydney Faces Closure After Damning Bell Report

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottett threatens Star Entertainment with the closure of its Sydney property after a damning report into its running.

Star Entertainment‘s share price took another hammering this week following the publication of The Bell Review. The NSW Independent Casino Commission (NICC) launched an inquiry into the Star Sydney casino in September 2021. Adam Bell SC headed the inquiry, publishing his damning report this week.

Star’s senior management team continually denied any wrongdoing during the early stages of the inquiry. However, nothing could be further from the truth. The evidence Mr Bell and his team turned up was so bad they deemed Star Sydney unfit to hold a gaming licence in New South Wales. In addition, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottett threatened Star Sydney with an enforced closure.

The inquiry began after Nine’s The Age and Sydney Morning Herald published allegations about money laundering at Star Sydney. It alleged Star broke the rules by hiding gambling transactions of Chinese VIPs, allowing them to play for stakes baccarat online players can only dream about. Indeed, the report revealed Star facilitated $908 million of transactions on China Union Pay debit cards between July 2013 and March 2020. Star did this despite knowing it broke Chinese capital flight laws.

Star Sydney Closure a Real Possibility After Damning Report

The NICC chief, Philip Crawford, did not hold back when reporters asked him about Star’s failings.

“The institutional arrogance of this company has been breathtaking. And their willingness to take risks in pursuit of financial goals has been appalling. Our major concern with regard to Star remains its culture. There doesn’t seem to be any short-term fix.”

“The Star treated the NICC with disdain, as an impediment to be worked around.”

Star Sydney welcomes 18 million customers annually, and a large percentage of them enjoy various casino games. Almost all the casino’s patrons do so lawfully, but Mr Bell’s report highlighted the fact Star Sydney allowed known criminals to play high roller casino games. Furthermore, it never challenged these criminals despite the blatant money laundering taking place.

The report named Star’s association with SunCity Group as a major concern. SunCity Group runs a junket operation, and authorities have long linked it with triad activity. Star went as far as giving SunCity its own cashier and private gaming room, called Salon 95. Mega-rich Chinese gamblers played private live dealer casino games away from prying eyes.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottett issued a closure threat to Star. He demands Star explains its actions within a fortnight; otherwise, closure is likely.

“Star has been absolutely horrendous. They’ve got 14 days to respond to that report, and if they don’t comply, they’re likely to close.”

Star Issues a Statement to Shareholders and Customers

Ben Heap is the Interim Chairman for The Star Entertainment Group. He issued a heartfelt statement to the ASX aimed at the company’s shareholders and customers. However, he swerved the subject of a possible Star Sydney closure.

“The report makes for difficult reading; we acknowledge its findings and recommendations and the gravity of the matters as set out in the report. Also, we acknowledge the public criticism of our governance, behaviours and culture, including by the NSW Independent Casino Commission Chief Commissioner, Mr Philip Crawford. We have fallen short of expectations. The people of NSW placed their trust in us as the holder of a casino licence, and we have not lived up to that trust. For that, we offer a sincere and unreserved apology.”

“Our goal is to earn back your trust and the trust and confidence of the NICC, and indeed all our regulators. I recognise that we won’t be judged by our words but by our actions. You have my commitment and that of my fellow directors and senior management team that we will do everything in our power to make the necessary improvements.”

Mr Heap explained the steps Star has undertaken since the inquiry began, in addition to publishing his email address so anyone can contact him and discuss matters with him.