Star CEO Robbie Cooke Resigns Amid Casino Company’s Latest Suitability Probe

Posted on: March 22, 2024, 09:03h. 

Last updated on: March 22, 2024, 10:19h.

Star Entertainment Group Chief Executive Officer Robbie Cooke is departing the Australian casino company.

Star Entertainment Robbie Cooke Australia
Star Entertainment Group CEO Robbie Gould has been shown the door. His departure comes in the wake of yet another New South Wales government inquiry into the casino’s regulatory compliance. (Image: The Sydney Morning Herald)

Cooke’s resignation comes less than two years after being appointed to the organization’s top managerial position. Star is embattled in yet another state inquiry in New South Wales (NSW). The probe concerns whether the group is suitable to hold a gaming license in southeastern Australia. A 2022 inquiry found it is not.

“Cooke and the board consider a change in leadership to be in the best interests of the company at this time — in particular having formed the view that the continuation of Cooke’s leadership of the group was not going to be conducive to the NSW Independent Casino Commission determining to find The Star capable of becoming suitable to hold a license in NSW,” a Star Entertainment filing with the Australian Securities Exchange read.

Cooke was appointed to the CEO role in July 2022. The former Tatts Group boss replaced Matt Bekier after he and Star Chair John O’Neil stepped down after a state inquiry determined that the company’s Star Sydney had lax money laundering controls and did little to prevent criminal organizations from infiltrating the integrated resort.

The inquiry found a secret VIP gaming room at The Star Sydney where Chinese nationals were brought to play by Macau junket group Suncity. The founder of Suncity, Alvin Chau, was found guilty by a Macau court in 2023 of 162 charges of fraud, illegal gambling, and criminal association, and sentenced to 18 years in a Chinese prison.  

Star Remains Unaligned

Star Entertainment is Australia’s second-largest casino operator after Crown Resorts. Along with its flagship The Star Sydney, the company operates three casinos in Queensland — The Star Gold Coast, The Star Brisbane, and Treasury Brisbane. The company additionally controls The Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Center.

Star’s board recently concluded that the latest NSW inquiry initiated in February would likely determine that the firm isn’t suitable to continue operating casino games without additional leadership changes. The Star Morning Herald reports that Cooke told colleagues that his departure comes with “considerable reluctance and a heavy heart.”

Cooke expressed similar sentiments in his official resignation statement.

While I find the position exceptionally disappointing, I have reached the conclusion that my continuation in the Group CEO role is not going to be conducive to the NSW Independent Casino Commission (NICC) determining to find The Star capable of becoming suitable to hold a casino license in NSW,” Cooke said. “In these circumstances, a change in leadership provides the best opportunity for the business to navigate the regulatory pressure it is facing.”

Star Chair David Foster will serve as interim CEO as a global search for Cooke’s successor takes place. Foster thanked Cooke for working to stabilize and resolve “a number of existential threats” to the enterprise. Foster will receive monthly compensation of AU$40,000 (US$26,109) while serving in the capacity.

Important Inquiry

The NSW Independent Casino Commission inquiry is the second of its kind in recent years into Star’s Sydney operations.

A state inquiry led by Adam Bell concluded in 2022 that Star is unsuitable to possess a gaming concession. The devastating findings gave Star until January 2024 to remedy the regulatory shortcomings.

Last December, however, the NSW Independent Casino Commission said a slew of regulatory concerns remained at The Star Sydney, and another inquiry was initiated. The subsequent inquiry, dubbed “Bell Inquiry Two” by the NICC, is ongoing.