Star Entertainment is facing unwelcomed scrutiny after details emerged of how the company allegedly coached local high rollers to make false claims of living outside of New South Wales, in a scheme that reportedly decreased the amount of gaming tax that its casino had to pay to the state.
Two Star Sydney casino employees have come forward, detailing their direct involvement in the scheme that they say involved the use of doctored documentation to help high-value local punters claim that they live overseas or interstate, despite them being NSW residents.
The players were reportedly advised that if they met the application requirements to be identified as non-NSW players, they would be entered into lucrative rebate programs. These requirements included a current interstate driver’s licence or recent passport visa stamp.
As a result of this, The Star Sydney is alleged to have avoided paying millions of dollars in gaming revenue to the NSW government.
The deal that the operator has with the NSW government allocates The Star Sydney a discounted tax rate of close to 10% on generated revenue from non-local VIP gamblers, who are included in the aforementioned rebate programs. On the other hand, the revenue collected from local players is taxed at nearly double the reduced rate.
Two additional confidential sources, who are not permitted to speak publicly, made the same allegations to the NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority and the Bell inquiry.
The Bell inquiry is an inquest in the style of a royal commission that was launched to look into the operations of The Star and is headed up by the prominent barrister, Adam Bell, SC.
The inquiry made the recent announcement that it would be conducting public hearings into The Star, following reports of unacceptable governance and practices that may involve money laundering, associations with organised crime, and wide-ranging fraud and interference from foreign entities at its Australian casinos.
A particular tale related by the sources told of a high roller who was coaxed into changing their residential status. This individual was apparently a “whale” gambler who had the Australian Taxation Office after him over unpaid taxes owed the federal government that reportedly runs into tens of millions of dollars.
One of the staff members involved in encouraging gamblers to alter their addresses advised that selected employees could gain a larger bonus by being a part of the scheme. The Bell inquiry will attempt to uncover precisely who at The Star was aware of this practice and to what extent anyone was involved when the public hearings begin in March 2022.
The Star responded to a list of detailed questions regarding the supposed scheme with a brief statement that read,
“The Star runs a rebate program where the eligibility of domestic and international players is determined by criteria known to the regulator.”
The Bell inquiry is also likely to tackle accusations that the casino operator gave Chinese high rollers free reign to use special debit and credit cards from their country to withdraw hundreds of millions of dollars from The Star’s hotel properties, a practice that deceptively framed gambling activity as hotel expenses.
If these claims are verified by anti-money laundering agency, Austrac, The Star may be in trouble for violating anti-money laundering legislation.
Crown Resorts’ Melbourne casino was previously found to have committed similar transgressions involving Chinese credit cards, a revelation that nearly cost the operator its casino licence.
The Star’s troubles began to compound in October 2021, when proof that, between 2014 and 2021, the company had established relationships with high-roller gamblers who have alleged associations with criminal organisations emerged.
Evidence of these practices came from numerous casino and law enforcement sources who had intimate knowledge of the company’s actions.