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Queensland’s Star Casino investigation to probe illegal Chinese payments

| By Richard Mulligan
Queensland’s probe into Star Entertainment Group will investigate China UnionPay payments at its properties as part of an independent external review which will assess the operator’s suitability to hold a casino licence.
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Attorney General Shannon Fentiman said the use of China UnionPay debit or credit card facilities and other arrangements to help facilitate gambling by Chinese nationals despite Chinese currency movement restrictions would be among the terms of reference for the review, which was announced earlier this month.

The review will also consider Star’s commitment to anti-money laundering responsibilities, management of VIP patrons, management of exclusions and approach to gambling harm minimisation.

Fentiman has appointed former judge Robert Gotterson to lead the review into The Star Gold Coast and the Treasury casinos in Queensland. The inquiry will have all the powers, authorities, rights, privileges, protection and jurisdiction of a commission of inquiry.

“There have been serious allegations made, along with a number of public inquiries and regulator investigations over recent years,” Fentiman said in a statement.

“Given the weight of evidence that has emerged regarding the operations of The Star Sydney and the shared governance and operational arrangements of Star Group entities more broadly, it is important the inquiry can seek information from anyone it sees fit.

“His Honour will be able to conduct interviews, and direct questioning of Star employees or other relevant persons should he consider it necessary, as well as review the evidence and the findings of the Bell Review and ongoing Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulations’ investigations.”

Fentiman announced plans for the probe earlier this month due to concerns over money laundering and integrity. At the time, she said that the police and casino regulator will continue with their separate investigations into operations at Star’s properties. Victoria’s gambling regulator recently fined Crown Resorts some AU$80.0m (£45.5m/€53.3m/US$57.5m) in relation to payments made using China UnionPay cards.

Responding to confirmation of the Queensland probe earlier this month, Star said it would cooperate fully with the review.

Star is already the subject of a similar review in neighbouring New South Wales. The initial review launched in June of last year after concerns were raised about The Star Sydney’s interactions with junkets and money laundering prevention measures. This was then expanded in January this year to assess other entities within the group.

Public hearings into Star’s activities, which are ongoing, have so far heard a series of claims, including that Star allowed junket operator Suncity to operate its own cage at the Star Sydney casino, where it exchanged chips for cash, despite this contravening the New South Wales Casino Control Act.

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