Star Entertainment Group has been hit with $100 million in fines and a special manager has been appointed to oversee its Queensland operations following “major failings” at its casinos.
- Ms Fentiman said Star essentially “has 12 months to get their house in order”
- The Attorney-General said the punishments “aim to strike a balance” between sending a strong message and keeping people employed
- Nicholas Weeks – who was installed as manager of Star’s casino licence in Sydney – has also been chosen as special manager in Queensland
The company has also been given 12 months to “get its house in order” or else have its Queensland casino licences temporarily suspended.
Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman announced the penalties on Friday — two months after she found the gambling giant unsuitable to hold a casino licence in the state in the wake of an independent review by former Court of Appeal judge Robert Gotterson.
“Today we are sending a very clear message that unlawful and criminal behaviour will not be tolerated in Queensland casinos,” she said.
Ms Fentiman said the penalties have been considered “very carefully” following the damning findings of the Gotterson review, as well as the responses from Star during the show-cause process.
“These disciplinary actions aim to strike a balance between ensuring that thousands of Queenslanders can remain employed, but also sending that very strong message that what happened here in Star casinos is completely unacceptable,” she said.
Star has been given 12 months to pay the fines, which total $100 million.
Star Entertainment Group made $1.53 billion in the 2021-22 financial year.
The company’s casino licences – for Treasury Brisbane and The Star Gold Coast — will also be suspended for 90 days, however that action has been deferred until December 1, 2023.
“Essentially this means Star has 12 months to get their house in order if they don’t want to see a 90-day suspension of their licence,” Ms Fentiman said.
She said the delay will give Star an opportunity to remediate its management and operations, saying if it makes “satisfactory progress toward rectifying these issues” she and the special manager could decide to postpone or rescind the suspension.
Star is also a key backer of the $3.6 billion Queen’s Wharf casino development, which is still under construction.
“The licence holder for Queen’s Wharf has not been issued a show cause because they’re not operational, but if Star are not suitable by the time they want to open their doors there will be significant conditions placed on their licence,” Ms Fentiman said.
Nicholas Weeks – who was installed by the NSW Independent Casino Commission as manager of Star’s casino licence in Sydney – has also been chosen as special manager in Queensland.
“I think given that Star really is the one company, it makes sense for the special manager to be working across New South Wales and Queensland,” she said.
“In addition, we will have a manager assisting Mr Weeks here in Queensland – Terri Hamilton – a very experienced individual.
“So, I think between the two of them, they will have oversight into all operations of Star.
“I know they will begin by doing a root-cause analysis about how these unlawful and criminal acts came to happen in casinos.”
Ms Fentiman said Star will be “sent the bill” for the cost of the special manager work.
Mr Gotterson’s review, released in October, found Star had “actively encouraged” patrons – who were banned interstate — to gamble at its Queensland casinos, demonstrating a “lively disregard” for the law.
Star was also “less than forthcoming” with its banker about the use of China UnionPay and there were “serious deficiencies” in its anti-money laundering/counter-terrorism financing program until relatively recent times, the report said.
Mr Gotterson’s report made 12 recommendations – including that the state’s casino laws be amended to allow for a special manager to be appointed to monitor casino operations.
Legislation passed state parliament later that month, enabling the special manager, and increasing the maximum penalty for regulatory breaches to $100 million.
Show cause notices were issued last month to the licensees of Star’s two Queensland casinos to prove why disciplinary action should not be taken against the company.
Star wants to ‘earn back trust and confidence’
A spokeswoman for Star Entertainment Group said the company is “committed to getting this right”.
“We are committed to doing everything in our power to earn back the trust and confidence of the community,” Star’s spokeswoman said.
“That includes all our regulators, our 8,000-plus team members and our almost 75,000 shareholders.”
Shadow attorney-general Tim Nicholls said there were a number of unanswered questions, which were never covered in the Gotterson inquiry, and that the government had been “caught napping”.
“They’ve only been brought to the table by the revelations out of New South Wales, they’ve had to rush through legislation in order to be able to increase the penalties and they’ve looked around and said, ‘gee there might be something wrong here, why haven’t we looked at this before’ and then changed the legislation,” he said.
In October, the NSW Independent Casino Commission imposed a $100 million fine on Star and handed the casino’s licence to a special manager.
Tim Costello from the Alliance for Gambling Reform does not believe the penalties go far enough.
“$100 million [in fines] is a start,” he said.
“Until a casino loses its licence the Australian public, Queenslanders, actually have no reassurance that there really is reform and serious sanctions being imposed.”