Star Entertainment Inquiry Wraps Up in Queensland, Ruling Expected Within Weeks

Posted on: September 30, 2022, 08:05h. 

Last updated on: September 30, 2022, 10:52h.

The fate of Star Entertainment in Queensland, Australia, is now in the hands of state leaders. Just days after New South Wales (NSW) wrapped up its inquiry of the casino operator, Queensland has completed its own investigation.

Treasury Brisbane
Star Entertainment’s Treasury Brisbane casino at night. The casino operator has been the subject of an inquiry in Queensland over allegations it violated regulations, and the inquiry has submitted its findings to the government. (Image: Star Entertainment)

Star spent the past several months responding to allegations the company actively violated anti-money laundering (AML) and reporting guidelines in NSW and Queensland. It also facilitated gambling by Chinese nationals through the use of bank cards, knowing that this was a prohibited activity.

It even allowed Alvin Chau to use a VIP room at its Star Sydney casino as his personal piggy bank, where he allegedly laundered millions of dollars. Chau, the founder and former CEO of embattled junket operator Suncity Group, is now on trial for illegal gambling and other crimes in Macau.

Time for an Overhaul

The inquiry in NSW determined that Star doesn’t deserve to hold a casino license, although a permanent suspension isn’t likely. A similar situation will likely play out in Queensland, where the company operates the Treasury Brisbane and The Star Gold Coast.

While suspending Star’s license is on the table, that would possibly cause Queensland more harm than good. Star is also building a casino at Queen’s Wharf as part of the government’s revitalization project of the area.

Star is investing AU$3.6 billion (US$2.33 billion) in that project. A suspension would lead to losses for the company and, more importantly, the government. It forecasts the casino will open next year, but it won’t be fully functional if Star doesn’t have its gaming license. Star plans on transferring its Treasury Brisbane license to the new casino when it opens.

Queensland’s Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman received the results of the inquiry today, according to local media. State leaders will now review the findings before determining what happens next.

Star is being accused of several crimes. The company allegedly looked the other way as individuals laundered money through the casino and hid AU$55 million (US$35.6 million) in illegal payments from Chinese gamblers. Star may have committed other crimes, including allowing customers with known gambling problems to access the casino floors, and welcoming known criminals into its facilities.

Fentiman didn’t specify when the government might issue its final decision, though it’s likely to come within the next couple of weeks.

Queensland Regulator “Asleep at the Wheel”

Ever since Crown Resorts went through the same process Star is now in, states in Australia have been updating their gaming regulations, as well as their regulators. Queensland has already taken action. But more changes are going to come.

A scathing report claims the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation (OLGR) hasn’t been fulfilling its responsibilities. In the past five years, it hasn’t prosecuted any state casino, according to ABC News.

An anonymous source told the media outlet that the OLGR has “failed to deter, prevent, and detect serious crime.” It has also “failed to protect vulnerable people from harm associated with gambling.”

In the same five-year period, the OLGR went after casino employees and guests. It issued eight citations to staff and 146 to customers. Those actions resulted from 3,669 incidents reported to the regulator. Of those, it only launched 282 investigations, according to the source.

As a result, the source said the OLGR has been “asleep at the wheel.” The individual believes the regulator doesn’t have the staffing levels it needs to properly do its job. Instead, it has relied on casinos to report infractions.

This is a practice that, as the inquiries have shown, was futile. As a result, Queensland will likely introduce a dedicated gaming regulator, similar to what has already occurred in NSW and Victoria.