NICC Fines Star Entertainment $100M and Suspends Licence

The New South Wales Independent Commission of Casinos (NICC) slapped Star Entertainment with a $100 million fine

The New South Wales Independent Commission of Casinos (NICC) slapped Star Entertainment with a $100 million fine, in addition to suspending its operating licence indefinitely. The $100 million fine from the NICC is the largest ever against a casino. Law changes in August made such a massive penalty possible.

NICC suspended Star Entertainment’s casino licence indefinitely. The company continues operating its hotel and other services, but its casino games remain empty. High roller casino games, including roulette games, remain under lock and key, which will be the case for the immediate future.

Philip Crawford, the NICC commissioner spoke at a press conference in Sydney. Crawford revealed Nicholas Weeks is the man NICC has appointed to oversee Star’s operations.

“Star will continue to operate as a company, minus the real money casino operations. Weeks will hold the licence as New South Wales decided what other measures to implement. More executive departures are likely as a result of the ruling.”

NICC Investigation Uncovers Large-Scale Wrongdoings

The NICC wanted to permanently pull Star’s casino licence, but it was not an option. Star employs more than 8,000 people across its properties. Completely banning Star from operating would come at a huge cost to the local and wider economy.

Adam Bell SC led the inquiry after the NICC ordered it following allegations of money laundering and fraud at Star Sydney. Bell and his team uncovered some almost unbelievable evidence of wrongdoing. The casino disguised $900 million spending by guests using China UnionPay as hospitality expenses. Star’s rivals, Crown Resorts, was also guilty of such deception.

Furthermore, a member of the ‘Ndrangheta organised crime syndicate frequently gambled at Star Queensland despite other Australian casinos banning him. The NICC inquiry uncovered more ties to organised crime figures and extensive money laundering. The ‘Ndrangheta is known as the most powerful Mafia group. Estimates show it controls approximately 70% of the cocaine market in Europe. In addition, it has a reputation for illegal arms dealing.

Appointed Star Manager in Control For At Least 90 Days

A press release to the ASX revealed the NICC-appointed manager has full control of the company for at least 90 days.

“Without limited his powers of duties under the Act, the NICC expects a primary focus of the manager during the period of his appointment will be to work closely with the former operator, The Star Entertainment Group Limited, and its subsidiaries (as necessary and appropriate) to manage the operations of the casino in a way that has regard to the matters of concern identified in the Bell Report regarding certain aspects of the former operator’s casino operations.”

The new manager has full control over the running of Star’s casino brands. However, he has no power or control over the company’s assets. Star’s current executive team and the new manager will work together while the former demonstrate they can adhere to new strict rules regarding Star’s operations.

Queensland Government Want a New Casino Operator

The Queensland government determined Star is unsuitable to hold a licence in the state, prompting the Gold Cast Mayor to question Star’s exclusivity in Queensland. Mayor Tom Tate believes the only way to clean up the current casino culture is to bring in more casinos to increase the competition.

“Monopolies never provide the best environment for consumers, whether it is airlines, supermarkets, resorts or casinos. Choice creates healthy competition and gives patrons better access to entertainment, world-class cuisine, accommodation, and experiences.”

Queensland is currently revamping its casino laws in light of Star’s licence suspension. The state is considering appointing independent monitors to oversee all operators. Such monitors should, in theory, prevent similar incidents from happening again.