After damaging NSW inquiry

Star appoints former Tatts boss Robbie Cooke as CEO amid "comprehensive renewal program" pledge

Robbie Cooke.
Reading time 1:40 min

As it attempts to recover from a damaging regulatory inquiry in New South Wales, Star Entertainment Group announced Tuesday it has named former Tatts Group boss Robbie Cooke as its new Chief Executive Officer. The Australian casino operator has not yet confirmed the date scheduled for the CEO to take over, as it is still subject to regulatory approvals. 

The inquiry into Star in New South Wales examined allegations that the operator enabled suspected money laundering, organized crime, fraud and foreign interference at its Sydney property. Evidence suggested that gang-linked junket operator Suncity ran an illegal cage at the casino; that the venue flouted rules on the use of Chinese debit cards; and that staff lied to banks and did not do enough in dealing with regulators. 

Former CEO Matt Bekier resigned in March amid the damaging inquiry, precipitating a boardroom cleanout. The inquiry heard that consultants tried to tell Star that it may not be complying with anti-money laundering laws, which led Bekier to grow “hostile,” branding a damning KPMG report as “wrong” in 2018. As a result of his resignation, Star appointed chairman John O’Neill as interim executive chairman.

Matt Bekier, former CEO of Star Entertainment Group.

In a statement, Cooke - who was CEO of lottery operator Tatts Group from 2013 to 2018, and is currently managing director of Tyro Payments -  admitted that there are challenges for The Star that have been “well documented," and assured that they will become his “priority and focus”. Ensuring continuity of the business through a comprehensive renewal program is of paramount importance,” he said. 

The news of his appointment comes days after an independent investigation was announced into Star Entertainment Group’s suitability to hold its casino license in Queensland. Since the announcement, the casino operator has been trying to differentiate the nature of its operations in the state from those under inquiry in New South Wales through a series of recently published submissions to a parliamentary committee, which is currently considering a tightening of casino regulations.  

The Queensland government announced its intention to change casino regulation last month as a proactive move to save off "risks identified in the national casino environment," as questions were raised about the Stars' efforts to court blacklisted gamblers from interstate and a lack of police action to issue banning notices. A bill would introduce a new power allowing the government to create and enforce harm minimization measures with fines.

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