The Star Entertainment Group Ltd’s licence for its flagship Sydney casino will be suspended “indefinitely” from October 21, and will be placed under state-government supervision, said on Monday the New South Wales Independent Casino Commission (NICC). The Australian casino operator was also fined AUD100 million (US$61.9 million), the gaming regulator in New South Wales said in a statement.
The casino firm stated on Monday that it had requested, and been granted, a halt to trading of its shares on the Australian Securities Exchange. The group runs The Star Sydney (pictured) in that city, as well as casinos in Queensland.
The decision on licence suspension comes as the casino operator undergoes a governance overhaul, following a damning regulatory report. In September, it had been made public that a report by lawyer Adam Bell – following a lengthy public inquiry – had found The Star Entertainment “unsuitable” to hold its New South Wales licence.
In Monday’s statement, NICC chief commissioner Philip Crawford said that – in conjunction with the decision to take the disciplinary actions – a manager had been appointed by the regulator. The step would enable the casino to remain operational even while The Star’s licence is suspended. The regulator has named Nicholas Weeks, a representative of Wexted Advisors, a Sydney-based business consultancy specialising in corporate restructuring, as “manager” of The Star Sydney.
The announcement said Mr Weeks will remain as The Star manager until the NICC “can determine whether the matters identified during the Bell Review can be rectified and whether the NICC believes it is likely that The Star can achieve suitability.”
“The suspension comes into effect Friday 21 October 9.00am when the manager starts in the role,” Mr Crawford said. “The NICC has resolved that it is no longer in the public interest that The Star should remain in control of that licence, and that The Star is not currently suitable to be the holder of the licence.”
He added: “If it were not for The Star’s change in attitude and our belief that it is in the public interest to protect the thousands of jobs at risk, there might have been a different outcome.”
The AUD100 million fine is said to be the highest possible under legislation introduced by New South Wales in August.
The Bell Report had mentioned “criminal infiltration and money laundering” in relation to the property’s gaming business. It had also made extensive reference to the venue’s previous business dealings with former Macau casino junket boss Alvin Chau Cheok Wa, and his Suncity brand.
Monday marks the first day for The Star Entertainment’s new chief executive, Robbie Cooke.
He was quoted as saying the business had “lost its way in a number of areas, but I’m committed to rehabilitating it and restoring the group to suitability”.
“I’m hopeful incoming CEO Robbie Cooke can apply his experience and leadership skills to guide the company towards suitability under the direction of the manager,” Mr Crawford said.
But the head of the NICC said the appointment of Mr Weeks as manager “does not mean the NICC believes The Star is suitable to hold a casino licence”. He added: “At this point the NICC believes there is a possibility The Star can undertake the reforms necessary to give the NICC confidence it can start a remediation process with a view to becoming suitable.”
Earlier this month, the Queensland government found The Star Entertainment “unsuitable” to hold casino licences there.
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