A comprehensive review

The New South Wales (NSW) Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) has announced a review into the operations of The Star Sydney casino resort. Specifically, the investigation will look at the Star Entertainment-owned casino’s compliance with the Casino Control Act 1992, the Casino Control Regulation 2019, and compliance with NSW legal and licensing agreements.

honing in on overseas deposits and transactions involving VIP players

The investigation will look at all key aspects of the operations at The Star Sydney, such as its management of bank accounts and its AML practices. This includes honing in on overseas deposits and transactions involving VIP players. Investigators will look at withdrawals from The Star Sydney’s bank accounts, the maintenance of transaction receipts, and the adequacy of money laundering detection systems.

Investigators will assess the core values of the casino operator by considering the staff’s responsibilities, as well as look to see if any loan sharking or money lending has been taking place. The relationship between the operator and international/VIP patrons will also be considered. The operator’s security measures will be assessed, including the surveillance facilities that utilize facial recognition technology and how exclusion orders are maintained.

Leading the review

Part of this investigation will consider evidence that The Star Sydney gave in August 2020 as part of an inquiry into rival casino resort company Crown Resorts. The Star Sydney had outlined how it was still working with junket operators. These types of operators were a core area of focus in the Crown Resorts investigation; the company was ordered to stop doing business with junkets during the inquiry.

Speaking about this new investigation was NSW ILGA chairman Philip Crawford. He said: “These reviews are carried out with the co-operation of the casino operator to ensure the casino remains free from criminal influence or exploitation and doesn’t cause harm to the public interest.”

Regular reviews of NSW casinos are necessary under the Casino Control Act; the last review of The Star Sydney was in 2016.

The findings of the review are expected to be delivered in January 2022.

Adam Bell SC, the lead senior counsel for the Bergin Inquiry, will head up the review into The Star Sydney. NSW ILGA chair Crawford emphasized that Bell has extensive knowledge of casino regulatory matters in NSW and is an ideal fit for this latest investigation. The findings of the review are expected to be delivered in January 2022.

The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (AUSTRAC) announced in June that it was starting a probe into Star Entertainment over potential due diligence breaches regarding things such as AML measures.

Results of the Crown Resorts inquiry

This investigation into The Star Sydney appears to be somewhat similar to the Bergin Inquiry into the suitability of Crown Resorts to operate a new casino in Central Sydney. That investigation revealed instances of money laundering and dealings between the Crown casino in Melbourne and organized crime groups.

At the conclusion of the investigation, Crown Resorts had to pay AUD$22.5m (US$16.5m) and commit to paying an annual casino supervisory levy. It was also found to not be suitable to operate its Sydney casino until various changes were put into place. Some industry-wide changes were also proposed, including the creation of an independent casino regulator and more of a focus on money laundering risks.

On the back of the Bergin report, the authorities in Victoria and Western Australia began their own investigations into Crown Resorts to assess its suitability to operate casinos in their respective regions.

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