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Queensland's Star to face the heat over high rollers and money laundering

Business

The inquiry into Star’s Queensland casinos will probe the company’s relationship with high rollers and money laundering as well as allegations that it encouraged people banned from its Sydney operations to gamble at its Queensland facilities.

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The Palaszczuk Government released the terms of reference for the inquiry which will be headed by former Supreme Court judge Robert Gotterson and assisted by Jonathon Horton, QC, the barrister who subjected former corruption watchdog chair Alan MacSporran to an extensive grilling over the CCC’s conduct.

It will examine the suitability of Star Group to hold a casino licence and the Star Group to be associated with the operation of a casino. It has the option to hold public hearings and could call Star employees to give evidence.

It will follow lines of inquiry similar to those in the NSW inquiry probing the use of the China Pay credit cards which were allegedly in NSW to avoid cover China’s strict capital controls.

The inquiry will also investigate whether people who were excluded from gambling at Star’s Sydney casino by NSW Police were “actively encouraged or incentivised to attend Star Group’s Queensland casinos”.

Allegations have been made in Sydney media that this occurred when a gambling “whale” with underworld links, John Khoury, was urged to head to the Queensland casinos after he was banned from the Sydney and Melbourne casinos.

Khoury claimed he was given $50,000, a gold Rolex, accommodation and gambling chips in return for gambling at the Gold Coast casino.

He told the Sydney Morning Herald’s Nick McKenzie that: “I haven’t put my hand in my pocket once. They would fly me to Queensland in private jets; they would buy me gifts for my birthday that even my family wouldn’t buy me. Every [complimentary benefit] possible, I got.”

Gotterson will have the ability to review the evidence from the Bell inquiry in Victoria as well as the NSW investigations, as well as the ongoing investigations by Queensland regulators.

The commission will examine Star’s commitment to anti-money laundering responsibilities, management of VIP patrons, high rollers and international patrons, the use of China Pay credit cards and its approach to harm minimisation.

With the full powers of a commission of inquiry, it “will provide advice” to the Attorney General and other ministers and deliver a report by September 30, well before the scheduled 2023 opening of Star’s new Brisbane casino.

Attorney General Shannon Fentiman said serious allegations had been made.

“Given the weight of evidence that has emerged regarding the operations of The Star, Sydney, and the shared governance and operational arrangements of Star Group entities more broadly, it is important the inquiry can seek information from anyone it sees fit,” Fentiman said.

“His Honour will be able to conduct interviews and direct questioning of Star employees or other relevant persons should he consider it necessary, as well as review the evidence of the Bell inquiry and the ongoing Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulations investigations.”

The Star inquiry into the Queensland operations has extra importance because the company owns two casinos in Brisbane and the Gold Coast and is behind the $3.6 billion Queen’s Wharf casino and resort development in the Brisbane CBD.

The Government has also announced it will amend the casino legislation to include fines of up to $50 million for serious breaches.

The inquiry may also make recommendations that periodic reviews on the suitability of licensees also be undertaken.

Public submissions to the inquiry would be welcomed.

 

 

 

 

 

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