The Star Entertainment Group, operator of Australia’s second largest casino, was penalized a record AUD$100 million (U.S. $62 million) by the country’s casino regulator for failures to prevent money laundering at its Sydney location.
The NSW Independent Casino Commission (NICC) suspended Star’s casino license in addition to announcing the fine Monday. The regulator further imposed the appointment of a manager to oversee the casino while Star’s license remains suspended.
The suspension will take effect Friday.
“The NICC has resolved that it is no longer in the public interest that The Star should remain in control of that license and that The Star is not currently suitable to be the holder of the license,” the regulator said in a press release. “… 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.”
Star has been embroiled in a money laundering scandal that peaked last month with the release of the Bell Report, which concluded the casino operator be found unsuitable to retain its license after significant deficiencies in its anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) controls were discovered. The report found senior management at Star oversaw a culture “in which business goals were given undue priority over regulatory and money laundering and terrorism financing risks.”
“The report is, quite frankly, shocking,” said NICC Chief Commissioner Philip Crawford at the time. “It provides evidence of an extensive compliance breakdown in key areas of The Star’s business.”
Star accepted the findings of the report and acknowledged “the gravity of the conduct” alleged. The company overhauled its board in response to the scandal and hired Robbie Cooke as its new chief executive officer. Cooke joins after serving as CEO at fintech Tyro Payments.
Star further appointed a new group chief risk officer, company secretary, and acting general manager of compliance, in addition to noting multiple key executive resignations.
“[Star Entertainment Group] is committed to taking additional necessary and appropriate action in clear timeframes to address the issues raised by Mr. Bell so the commission … can be satisfied that The Star Sydney has taken sufficient steps, and has bound itself to take further steps, so that it may continue to hold its license,” the company said in response to the report.
In suspending Star’s license, the NICC said the decision to appoint a manager was made to keep the casino running and protect “thousands of jobs at risk.” The regulator acknowledged Star’s desire to work openly and transparently to remediate its deficiencies as a mitigating factor in its decision.
“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,” Crawford stated.
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