Watchdog takes casino giant Star to court

Public hearings into the Star casino operations in Sydney will begin on Monday.

Public hearings into the Star casino operations in Sydney will begin on Monday. Photo: AAP

Star Entertainment faces more civil penalties for allegedly allowing customers to move cash through risky back channels and continuing business with “higher-risk customers” in breach of federal anti-money laundering laws.

The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre lodged a case against the ASX-listed gambling giant in the Federal Court on Wednesday after wrapping up a joint probe with police and regulators in NSW and Queensland, which began in September 2019.

The case comes after a NSW royal commission-style probe resulted in Star being stripped of its casino licence and fined a record $100 million last month.

The Queensland government has also issued the company with a show-cause notice as to why it should continue to hold a casino licence in that state after its own inquiry, also last month.

AUSTRAC will allege Star allowed customers to move money through non-transparent and highly risky channels, didn’t know where the money in those channels was coming from and failed to consider their ongoing business relationships with higher risk customers.

AUSTRAC chief executive Nicole Rose says all casinos must take anti-money laundering obligations seriously as “criminals will always seek to exploit the financial system to launder their money”.

“AUSTRAC’s investigation identified a multitude of issues including poor governance and failures of risk management and to have and maintain a compliant AML/CTF program,” she said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The Star Entities also failed to carry out appropriate ongoing customer due diligence which has led to widespread and serious non-compliance over a number of years.”

Star chief executive Robbie Cooke said the company had cooperated with investigators and was reviewing AUSTRAC’s statement of claim.

“We are transforming our culture, transforming our business. We are committed to improvement but there is a lot still to do,” he told the ASX in a statement.

“Our goal is to earn back the trust and confidence of AUSTRAC and all our regulators. We will continue to work with AUSTRAC as we build a better, stronger and more sustainable company.”

Last month, the NSW casino regulator took the unprecedented step of suspending Star’s Sydney casino licence as well as slapping a record $100 million fine on the company after an inquiry revealed a litany of compliance failures, including ties with notorious gang-linked junket operators and Chinese debit card transactions being disguised as hotel expenses.

The Pyrmont venue has continued to trade under a licence held by a Nick Weeks, a government appointed manager.

The Queensland review declared Star unfit to hold its two casino licences in the state after finding the company had neglected its anti-money laundering and responsible gaming duties and deliberately misled regulators in pursuit of profit.


Topics: NSW
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