Star casino faces fresh grilling as high-rollers depart

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

The operator of The Star casino in Sydney will face another grilling over its suitability to run the key facility as the company battles falling spending from high rollers.

Star Entertainment Group’s shares have been languishing at about one-seventh of their 2021 value, before Adam Bell SC was first appointed to review the Sydney casino’s licence.

After a first report that found The Star unfit after exposing a litany of compliance failures, Bell is overseeing a second inquiry that will begin public hearings on Monday.

His probe began in February with the intention of holding private sessions, but he later notified the NSW Independent Casino Commission that open hearings would be in the public interest.

The second inquiry was prompted over concerns that reform at the casino might have been prompted by oversight from an interim manager – whose term expired in June – rather than reforms driven by The Star.

The casino was hit with a $100 million fine and had its licence suspended after the previous inquiry’s October 2022 report was delivered.

That investigation included revelations that a notorious gang-linked junket operator was running an illicit cage within a premium gaming room and Chinese debit card transactions were being disguised as hotel expenses, skirting Beijing’s capital flight laws.

Casino operations were handed to interim manager Nicholas Weeks to allow it to continue operating with its licence suspended.

He had his term extended for what the commission said would be the last time in November.

Weeks will appear on Monday along with The Star Sydney’s head of risk, Eileen Vuong, and acting chief executive Peter Humphreys, as well as several former senior executives.

The hearings come as Star Entertainment Group battled falling revenues across its operations, driven down by the poor performance of its high roller-focused premium gaming rooms.

Revenue from the Sydney high-roller rooms was down nearly 20 per cent in the latest quarter of the 2023/24 financial year when compared to a year earlier, according to a trading update released on Friday.

Across its entire operations in NSW and Queensland, net revenue was down 4.6 per cent over the same period.

Star shares were trading at 50c on Friday, down from $3.64 in September 2021.

Weeks is also managing Star’s Queensland casinos until December after a separate inquiry in that state.

He previously oversaw changes at rival casino operator Crown following a separate NSW inquiry.

Star is negotiating the sale of Brisbane’s Treasury Casino, hotel and car park as it prepares to open in the Queen’s Wharf precinct in August.


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