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Star Entertainment hits back at “misleading” money laundering reports

| By Robert Fletcher
Australian land-based operator Star Entertainment Group has branded media reports over allegations of money laundering at the business as “misleading” but said it would take the appropriate steps to address the claims.
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joint investigation by newspapers the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age and television programme 60 Minutes alleged Star allowed suspected money laundering, organised crime, large-scale fraud and interference at its casinos for years, despite warnings its anti-money laundering controls were failing.

Published over the weekend, the report said that between 2014 and 2021, Star cultivated high-roller gamblers allegedly associated with criminal or foreign-influence operations. The claims, the media outlets said, were backed up by a number of casino and law enforcement sources with knowledge of Star’s operations.

Among the individuals supposedly permitted to gamble with Star was an alleged cocaine importer, a restaurateur and accused drug trafficker and money launderer and some of Australia’s biggest alleged tax cheats and corporate fraudsters.

Failings over its protection measures were, reportedly, exposed in internal documents, court cases and law enforcement intelligence briefings – as well as by numerous sources with knowledge of Star’s operations.

The investigation follows the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority’s decision last month to launch an investigation into The Star Casino in Sydney after concerns were raised about its interactions with junkets and money laundering prevention measures.

Responding to the reports, Star said it was “concerned” by a number of assertions within the media that it considered to be “misleading”, but also said it would take steps to address the allegation.

“The Star is concerned by a number of assertions within the media reports that it considers misleading,” Star said. “There are constraints on publicly discussing specific individuals. 

“We will take the appropriate steps to address all allegations with relevant state and federal regulators and authorities, including Mr Adam Bell SC who is undertaking a regular review of The Star Sydney in accordance with the Casino Control Act 1992 New South Wales (NSW).

“The Star operates in a heavily regulated industry. We are subject to thorough and ongoing regulatory oversight including compliance checks and reviews across the company’s operations in NSW and Queensland.”

Star also noted its backing for the recommendations of the Bergin Inquiry Report into rival Crown Resorts, which were supported by the NSW government in August

These included that the Independent Casino Commission (ICC) be established as an independent, standalone, specialist casino regulator, followed by a series of legislative reforms aimed at preventing criminal activity related to casino operations.

“These recommendations will impact the regulation of casinos in NSW and are supported by The Star,” Star said.

Crown was deemed unsuitable to operate its casino at Barangaroo in central Sydney in February, after an inquiry found evidence that its facilities and accounts were used for money laundering, in addition to engaging with junket operators with alleged connections to organised crime. 

In related news, Star today (11 October) announced the reopening of its Star Sydney casino with a number of restrictions. The property had been shut since 25 June due to local novel coronavirus (Covid-19) rules in NSW.

The casino is now open to fully vaccinated staff and guests, though capacity will be limited to one person per every 4sq m indoors and 2sq m outdoors while mask wearing will be mandatory and people must be seated while eating or drinking indoors.

Star said it expects the seating restriction to be removed imminently when NSW clears the target of 80% of its adult population having a double dose of the vaccination, with capacity limits and mask rules also set to be eased from early December.

Meanwhile, operating restrictions The Star’s Queensland properties were eased as from 8 October, meaning capacity limits were raised to one person per 2sq m indoors, though masks remain mandatory inside the casino facility.

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