Star Entertainment Officially Unsuitable for Queensland Gaming License

The Queensland government has handed down its ruling on Star Entertainment and has determined that the casino operator is no longer worthy of holding casino licenses. Whether or not Star actually loses its status is still in the air, however.

The sun sets behind Star Entertainment’s Star Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. The casino operator isn’t suitable to hold a casino license in the state, according to an official inquiry. (Image: The Australian)

The recently wrapped inquiry determined — just like in New South Wales (NSW) — that Star repeatedly violated anti-money laundering regulations and had ties to organized crime. It determined the company is unsuitable for the two licenses it holds. But the final decision rests with the state’s attorney general (AG), Shannon Fentiman.

Fentiman announced on Thursday that Star’s gross negligence made Queensland lose faith in the company’s abilities to be a decent corporate citizen. She also cited “major failings” that destroyed Star’s character and integrity.

Last Chance for Star

Star risks losing its license, but that discussion will take place later. Now, according to Fentiman, the company has to show why it deserves to retain its place in Queensland.

The state’s gaming regulator, the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation (OLGR), will play a role in that process. The AG wants the entity to prepare a “show cause” notice, explaining its actions and why it is suitable to continue operating the Treasury Brisbane and The Star Gold Coast casinos.

The OLGR will need a couple of weeks to draft the letter and lay out the violations Star faces. Then, the operator will have three weeks to respond and convince Queensland that it is able to conduct itself in accordance with regulatory guidelines.

This scenario means that Star isn’t likely to provide its input until the end of November. Then, the OLGR and Fentiman will need to review the information before making a decision. This means that, in theory, it could be the middle of December or the beginning of next year before the results are published.

If Fentiman decides that Star should hold onto its licenses, she can still make the company pay massive fines. The state recently updated its laws to authorize fines of up to AU$50 million (US$35.46 million). Previously, the severest disciplinary response Queensland had was to take away an operator’s gaming license.

There could also be censures and temporary license suspensions. A similar scenario played out in NSW when Crown Resorts was hit with the same charges Star faces.

Star also faced similar inquiries in Victoria and NSW, the latter of which recently concluded its inquiry. A decision in that case is still pending.

Organized Crime Links Add to Star Woes

Star repeatedly allowed criminals, including members of the ‘Ndrangheta mafia, to gamble at its casinos, despite bans being in place. In addition, the company’s ties to Alvin Chau and his Suncity Group junket company are proving hazardous to its future.

One other issue could really invite trouble for Star. There are allegations that Star’s Queen’s Wharf project has backing from a man with known links to international crime.

Chow Tai Fook, through his Chow Tai Fook Enterprises (CFTE) company, is a major shareholder in The Star Gold Coast and Queen’s Wharf. He is allegedly a cohort of a reputed boss of the 14K Triads, “Broken Tooth” Wan Kuok Koi.

An investigation into the connection between Star and CFTE is underway. Adding to the dilemma is the fact that the Queensland government had to sign off on the company’s involvement, despite Chow Tai Fook’s name appearing on lists of names of people associated with high-profile crimes.

CFTE owns 25% of the AU$3.6 billion (US$2.55 billion) Queen’s Wharf project. Now that his involvement is public knowledge, allowing him to continue, if the allegations are true, could be viewed by some as the state’s acceptance of organized crime.

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