Evidence The Star is suitable licensee “does not exist”, lawyer concludes

Naomi Sharp, senior counsel assisting with the New South Wales (NSW) Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority’s (ILGA) review into The Star, has concluded that the operator is not suitable to have a licence in the state, stating that evidence to prove otherwise “does not exist”.

This was revealed during the final day of testimony in the NSW Authority’s review into The Star’s licence. The public hearings began on 17 March 2022.

Sharp stated that she believes more “reflection and investigation” is needed for the operator in addition to the original review, and that appropriate compliance measures- including anti-money laundering (AML) and counter terrorism financing (CTF) – were not put in place at the appropriate times.

“We submit that you would reject the submission made by senior council for The Star and The Star Entertainment, that there is already a strong foundation for a proper and sound approach and compliance in relation to AML and CTF,” said Sharp.

“We submit that there has been a significant uplift in AML and CFT framework, but that is not something that has changed since the review commenced. That uplift commenced around August 2018.”

Sharp went on to detail that members of senior management at The Star “repeatedly misled” the ILGA, and that clear evidence would be needed to grant The Star the right to operate.

“We submit that in these extraordinary circumstances, you would need to be persuaded by very compelling evidence that The Star and The Star Entertainment are presently suitable, and we submit that this evidence does not exist,” said Sharp.

“What the evidence does establish is that there has been a delinquent culture among the ranks of senior management. Number two, there has been a very serious failure of risk management framework, and a very serious failure of the second line of defense. Three, an absence of a culture of compliance in terms of money laundering and counter terrorism financing obligations.”

Sharp also pointed out that a number negative changes have taken place at The Star and Star Entertainment since the review first began in September 2021.

“There has been a significant number of resignations. Many of those resignations are drawn from members of senior management,” she continued.

“Secondly, there have been suspensions – or an end to – areas where misconduct has occurred. In addition to that the EEIS bank accounts have been closed and steps are being taken to de-register.”

The review into The Star has been eventful. During the hearings, management at The Star were said to have made “misleading” statements to its bank regarding non-gambling related transactions.

The Star’s executive chair, John O’Neill, announced that he would step down from his role on the company’s board. He had spent less than two months in the position, and news of his departure came just one week before he was set to give evidence in The Star review.

Author: Raymond Fleming