The New South Wales (NSW) Independent Casino Commission published on Tuesday the Bell Report, which has found The Star Entertainment Group Ltd “unsuitable” to hold a casino licence in that Australian state.
The report made extensive mention of The Star Sydney property’s previous links to former Macau casino junket boss Alvin Chau Cheok Wa, and his Suncity brand.
It stated: “In the second half of 2019, and despite all that was known by The Star entities about Suncity and Mr Chau, no further risk assessment of Suncity and Mr Chau was conducted.”
The document – in three volumes, each running to several hundred pages, plus appendices – added: “In the circumstances this was inexcusable and wholly inconsistent with the casino operator’s obligations to manage the risks of criminal infiltration and money laundering.”
The executive summary of the report said: “It has been found that The Star is presently unsuitable to be concerned in or associated with the management and operation of a casino in New South Wales.”
But it further said that the terms of reference used to compile the report “do not authorise any assessment of what, if any, changes would be required to render The Star suitable”. That was a “matter for determination by the authority”.
“The report is, quite frankly, shocking. It provides evidence of an extensive compliance breakdown in key areas of The Star’s business,” said the regulator’s Chief Commissioner, Philip Crawford, in a statement on its website, accompanying the released report.
“Not only were huge amounts of money disguised by the casino as hotel expenses, but vast sums of cash evaded anti-money laundering protocols in numerous situations, most alarmingly through Salon 95 – the secret room with a second cash cage,” added Mr Crawford. That was a reference to a room at The Star Sydney that was allegedly used by the Suncity junket brand.
The report said that The Star had operated in the period to September 2021 an “inherently deceptive process” with China UnionPay cards, via which patrons were permitted to use such cards “to obtain AUD900 million [US$619.9 million] for gambling, which was disguised as hotel expenses.”
Mr Crawford was also quoted as saying: “We are in the process of taking stock of the report’s content. There are a range of implications across 30 recommendations that need to be worked through.
“Once we have given The Star the opportunity to respond to the notice, we will be in a position to determine an appropriate disciplinary approach.”
The Star Entertainment Group said in a Tuesday filing to the Australian Securities Exchange after issuance of the commission’s report, that it was “currently considering the report and the matters raised”.
A criminal trial in Macau for Mr Chau and other defendants linked to the now-defunct Macau casino junket Suncity Group Ltd has been delayed to September 19.
Mr Chau was detained in Macau on November on suspicion of facilitating illegal gambling overseas for Chinese customers.
New South Wales had previously found another Australian casino operator – Crown Resorts Ltd – unsuitable for a casino licence at its new Crown Sydney property, because of alleged insufficient controls against the risk of money laundering and criminal infiltration in operations in other Australian states.
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