Star Entertainment in New Scandal Over Casino Gaming Chips

Posted on: March 20, 2023, 04:53h. 

Last updated on: March 22, 2023, 07:23h.

In addition to providing money laundering assistance and falsifying official records, Star Entertainment has admitted to more lawbreaking shenanigans as part of its daily routines.

Star Entertainment's Treasury Brisbane casino at dusk
Star Entertainment’s Treasury Brisbane casino at dusk. The casino operator faces new fines for allowing the use of credit cards for gaming chip purchases. (Image: Dreamstime)

In the latest blow to the Australian gaming ecosystem, Star has admitted that it illegally sold gaming chips at its Treasury Casino. It did so by allowing gamblers to use credit cards to make their purchases, according to the Australian Financial Review.

Star allowed patrons visiting its Queensland casinos to buy chips with credit cards. These revelations resulted directly from the company’s admission that it manipulated records to allow Chinese gamblers to use their Chinese UnionPay (CUP) cards. Those bank cards, in accordance with Chinese law, are not eligible for gambling purchases.

Star confirmed its actions to Queensland Attorney General Shannon Fentiman, leading to a guilty plea on seven charges.

The company previously admitted to using fake invoices for hotel stays that were, in reality, chip purchases.

Extended Deceit

There were at least two extended periods when Star engaged in this deceit. It allowed the practice to occur from June 2017 to December 2018 and from March 2022 to April 2022. The second period was while an inquiry into its lawbreaking was taking place.

Star brass asserted during the Queensland investigation, which ended a year ago, that it recognized its mistakes and wouldn’t break the rules again.

Star is already on the hook for more than AU$200 million (US$213.28 million) in fines in Queensland and New South Wales (NSW). Queensland officials are now reviewing how much to add to that and will announce their decision on June 2.

NSW also prohibits using credit and debit cards for gaming-related purchases. As such, Star could expect the state to potentially add fresh charges after temporarily suspending its gaming licenses there. Since Crown Resorts was also guilty of the same practices at its casinos, there’s a possibility it will face new fines, too.

Searching for Money

Star is only going from bad to worse as it rides the wave of negative publicity. It’s reportedly trying to find a buyer for its 50% stake in the Sheraton Grand Mirage. It hopes to get the AU$200 million to cover the two fines in NSW and Queensland.

A month ago, the company announced that it was in the process of gathering AU$800 million ($545 million) through a fund-raising exercise. That money would help it repay debt following a financial loss in the first half of the fiscal year. It also had to suspend shareholder dividends as a result of that loss.

Star’s stock price has nosedived, partly due to the embarrassment it brought upon itself, as well as a softer gaming market. In August 2018, the company traded at AU$4.96 (US$5.28). By February, it was down to AU$1.52 (US$1.62).

As of press time, it was trading at AU$1.42 (US$1.51).