The New South Wales investigation into Star Entertainment is in full swing as it takes testimony from the operator’s executives, the content of which prompted one hearing leader to label the company’s conduct as “out of control.”
Previous and current executives from Star Entertainment have spoken before the enquiry which has so far determined that the casino operator has breached several regulations. It has emerged that the Star Sydney fabricated records to conceal how VIP gamblers’ funds were handled and permitted large transactions without the appropriate money-management measures. The large amount of information uncovered by the investigation has resulted in a request for its term to be extended.
While Star will most likely retain the privilege to be a casino operator in Australia, its current management may have to go first, as its unveiled history of flouting financial and gaming regulations comes to the fore.
Marcus Lim, a former Star executive, was subjected to an internal investigation in 2019 following allegations of misconduct relating to his management activity, compensation, a “Suncity conflict,” and unauthorised use of a VIP comp program, among others.
The investigation was prompted by issues that arose around an international rebate program that was allegedly managed recklessly by Lim.
Naomi Sharp, an attorney assisting the NSW hearing countered that as far as she could recall, the allegations against Lim were not presented to the board. She added that if this had been the case, this matter would be reflected in board meeting minutes. It was pointed out, however, that as Star has previously conducted secret board meetings, the matter is still up for scrutiny.
As if these accusations weren’t damning enough, information surrounding the Chinese UnionPay (CUP) program frequently came up. Under the programme, the operation allegedly looked the other way while Chinese VIPs exchanged large amounts of money at Star Sydney, a flagrant violation of policies. The casino supposedly facilitated these illegal transactions, labelling the cash withdrawals as accommodation expenses.
Paula Martin, Star’s chief legal and risk manager was alleged to have supported these activities, leading Sharp to remark that she had “behaved completely unethically.” Martin, for her part, stated that this practice was never meant to break any rules. She explained that Star used the program to provide accessible funds for gambling.
Suncity Issue Re-emerges
The inquiry has dredged up the existing issue of the dubious relationship between Star and Suncity, a junket operator that previously operated with impunity, but now finds itself in peril under the gaze of intensified examination. The nature of this relationship has been laid bare by the testimony of the executives, increasingly placing the operator’s future in jeopardy.
Martin admitted that Star overlooked a “myriad of transgressions” where Suncity was concerned as stories of irregular cash-for-chips exchanges, duffel bags of cash being stored on-site, and unauthorised access to restricted areas emerged.
Martin was allegedly fully aware of the transgressions as they happened and admitted to not informing regulators at the time, while in the same breath admitting that doing it “would have been beneficial”.
The fallout from this scandal has already claimed a top job at the company, with Star’s CEO, Matt Bekier, resigning as a result. The board appears to be in the process of cleaning house with rumours of more high-level departures currently circulating.