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Australia – The Star could face major boardroom overhaul like Crown as inquiry bites hard

By - 22 March 2022

An explosive start to the New South Wales’ inquiry into Australia’s Star Entertainment Group could see major board room changes take place as the company restructures in order to keep its licence.

Centre for Public Integrity Director Geoffrey Watson SC believes a major overhaul akin to that seen at Crown Resorts after its inquiry last year.

Shares in Star plummeted by seven per cent following revelations that the casino operator facilitated the transfer of $900m in gambling credit from China, allegedly them as hotel expenses.

Mr. Watson accused The Star of acting ‘very deliberately’ as it repeatedly facilitated the transactions.

He said: “Casinos have got to run at the highest level of probity. There are sure signs now that company was not doing that. What happened yesterday means this company needs to explain why it wasn’t facilitating serious crime.”

He added that The Star would need an overhaul of the scale of Crown Resorts’ board room changes.

“It’s too endemic, they’ll have to just start again,” he added.

A fund manager at a major Australian mutual fund said: “The CEO [Matt Bekier] has been there for a long time, and he’s probably getting towards the end of tenure anyway. Chairman John O’Neil is an interesting one because he was spruiking how The Star was squeaky clean. But it’s day one, what’s going to come out on day three or five? There will be a fall-out but how deep it is, who knows?”

Much of the independent review, being overseen by Adam Bell SC, will take place in private, although there are several public hearings where witnesses are being asked to give evidence publicly.

Philip Crawford, chair of the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority, said: “Mr Bell’s review will consider how effectively The Star is complying with its statutory obligations and whether it remains suitable to hold a casino licence. This includes examining to what extent the casino is free from the infiltration of criminal interests such as money laundering and how well it is administering its obligations to minimize gaming harms.

“The Star is responsible for ensuring adequate anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing systems are in place and for thoroughly vetting and managing relationships with close associates, junket partners and high rollers,” he added. “We have every confidence that the review will thoroughly investigate The Star’s current operations, compliance with its statutory obligations, and make appropriate recommendations for remedial action if necessary.

The final report is due in June.

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