Australia’s Queensland state announced on Tuesday the beginning of an independent investigation into The Star Entertainment Group’s suitability to hold its casino license in the jurisdiction after allegations of money laundering were uncovered in New South Wales. The decision comes as the country’s two largest casino companies, Crown Resorts and Star, currently face legal scrutiny over allegations that they had enabled breaches of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism laws.
Queensland Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman said in a statement that investigations by the state's Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation into The Star “are ongoing”, and they are continuing to work with the Queensland Police and Australia’s financial crime regulator.
Queensland Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman
The Star runs Queensland casinos in Brisbane, the state capital, and popular tourist spot Gold Coast, while it is a joint venture partner in an AUD 3.6 billion ($2.5 billion) casino project due to open next year in Brisbane, called Queen's Wharf.
An ongoing inquiry in New South Wales state has heard Star breached the law. In parallel, inquiries in NSW, Victoria and Queensland found Crown did so as well. The CEOs of both companies have left over allegations raised in those probes.
In late May, the counsel assisting the New South Wales inquiry into The Star, Naomi Sharp, recommended the company does not retain its casino license in the jurisdiction. Sharp pointed out that the company was only “at the beginning of its journey” to remediation, but also that the evidence provided by the executives so far had not been credible. More than a dozen of them resigned following the inquiry’s revelations.
The Star Sydney
“It is not enough to bring a corporation into suitability simply to terminate the employment of our part company with a number of senior officers," Sharp said in regards to alleged unreliable testimonies, and added that Star had not yet undergone “deep reflection on what has gone wrong” in Sydney and it should not enjoy the “privilege” of a casino license until it fixes its practices.
Sharp’s recommendation came days after the Queensland government proposed tighter law control for land-based casinos in the state, including a provision to raise maximum penalties to AUD 50 million (USD 35 million), suggested by Fentiman as the reforms would help prevent criminal influence and exploitation in casinos.
“This Bill will ensure Queenslanders can have confidence in the integrity of our casino laws. These reforms seek to address concerns which have emerged from the public inquiries into casinos operated by Crown Resorts in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia, as well as investigations underway into the Star Entertainment Group," she said at the time.