The planned reforms were announced today in a Casino Control Amendment Bill that is aimed at preventing criminal influence and exploitation in casinos.
It follows revelations in southern states of money laundering and other serious crimes allegations at Star. Similar allegations were made about Crown casinos. The Queensland Government, which has had a watching brief on the current inquiry in NSW into Star, has refused to hold its own public inquiry.
However, Attorney General Shannon Fentiman said reforms contained within the Casino Control and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 would help prevent criminal influence and exploitation in casinos and was a response to the inquiries in other states.
Among the reforms were a transition to cashless gambling and specific casino integrity reforms. The Minister would also have the ability to issue a fine to a casino licensee, lessee, or operator (a casino entity) of up to $5 million, while the Governor in Council may issue a fine of up to $50 million.
A wave of new penalties would also be introduced including for contravening of an approved control system where the fine would be doubled to 400 penalty units. Interfering with an inspector will increase from 40 units to 160 units (a penalty unit is $137).
Casinos would also be forced to provide information requested by the Minister even if it is the subject of professional privilege.
A contravention of the Act would be introduced as a new ground for taking disciplinary action. The threshold for taking disciplinary action would also be lowered.
The Minister would also be allowed to carry out investigations into the suitability of a casino or its associates. Public “letters of censure” could also be issued to casinos and published on the Government’s website.
“These reforms seek to address concerns which have emerged from the public inquiries into casinos operated by Crown Resorts in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia as well as investigations underway into the Star Entertainment Group,” Fentiman said.
“As a result of the changes there will be significant pecuniary penalties as a disciplinary action of up to $50 million.”
She said further changes to the legislation may be considered at the end of the inquiry in NSW into Star’s activities.
Among the evidence given to the NSW inquiry was that a key member of Star’s international VIP team was accused of misappropriating $13 million before vanishing in 2020.
There have been other claims of kickbacks and the use of a China Union Pay credit card for gambling purposes which is strictly forbidden in China. A high roller was also given a $5 million gambling credit in exchange for a blank cheque and encouraged to pay off his losses with the credit card.
It was alleged that about $900 million in gambling transactions on China Union Pay cards were disguised as hotel expenses.
Star owns the casinos in Brisbane and the Gold Coast and is behind the $3 billion Queen’s Wharf casino and resort development in Brisbane.
The scandal involving the company’s activities in NSW has led to the resignation of its chairman, most of the board, the chief executive and key personnel.
Fentiman said the reforms would be in place before the opening of Queens Wharf.
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