Shady patrons allowed to gamble at Star

·2-min read

WHAT IS THE BELL REPORT?

Adam Bell SC's report is the culmination of a review initiated in September 2021 into Star, the operator of Sydney's main casino. Hearings held over three months in 2022 were royal commission-like, compelling witnesses to give evidence.

WHAT DID BELL FIND?

Up until September 2021, Star had:

* Operated an "inherently deceptive process" in which $900 million in Chinese patrons' withdrawals for gambling were disguised as hotel expenses

* Misled Australian and Chinese banks about that practice

* Created circumstances in which a junket operator with "likely links to organised crime" could conduct "a casino inside a casino"

* Conducted business with high-value patrons who were not of good repute

* Engaged in serious misconduct by giving false documents to Bank of China Macau over five years to disguise payments from patrons

* Permitted, after the BOC Macau accounts were closed, other overseas payment channels with "high risks of money laundering to flourish, with little or no oversight"

* Breached its casino licence and its standard operating procedures on numerous occasions

* Repeatedly misled and concealed important information from the Liquor and Gaming Authority

WHAT DID BELL AND OTHERS SAY?

"This conduct was the product of ineffective risk management and governance. It was also the product of a culture ... which condoned unethical conduct, prioritised business goals over compliance objectives, courted risk and discouraged bad news." - Independent author Adam Bell SC

"I'm afraid it's very sad reading this report. The steps they went to to hide things and hide really bad behaviour ... allowing known criminals to operate with impunity and to gamble almost without restraint." - NSW Independent Casino Commission chief Phillip Crawford

"Over time, putting it bluntly, there's (been) an attempt by business to dilute the approach to regulation ... the people advocating for going to light-touch regulation ... got it completely wrong." - Mr Crawford

"The flagrant disregard for the rules and regulations they should be operating under is breathtaking." - Gaming Minister Kevin Anderson

"The NSW Opposition offers bipartisan support ... if legislative changes are required." - Opposition Leader Chris Minns

"The Star is currently considering the Report and the matters raised in the (show cause) Notice." - Star Entertainment Group

"There is ... a pressing need for an independent national regulator." - Independent federal MP and anti-pokies campaigner Andrew Wilkie

WHAT NOW?

On Mr Bell's recommendation, the casino commission has issued a show cause notice, outlining potential revocation of Star's casino licence and/or fines of up to $100 million.

Star has 14 days to respond.

The government is yet to decide whether to support Bell's recommendation to move all gambling in Star casino to cashless cards - a measure to address both money laundering and harm minimisation.