Bekier Exits Star Amid Deepening Probe

An inquiry into non-compliance at Australia’s Star Sydney casino resort has prompted Star CEO Matt Bekier (l.) to step down. The probe has uncovered evidence that Star ignored its AML responsibilities and misled regulators.

Bekier Exits Star Amid Deepening Probe

Star Entertainment Group’s Managing Director and CEO Matt Bekier has resigned amid growing evidence that the Australian casino giant failed to meet its regulatory responsibilities, knowingly worked with a junket linked to criminal triads, and allowed VIPs to gamble millions of dollars without intervention. ABC News called Bekier the “first major casualty” of the ongoing probe in New South Wales (NSW).

In a March 28 ASX filing, Star said Bekier “informed the board that … he is accountable for the effectiveness and adequacy of the company’s processes, policies, people and culture. Mr. Bekier said the right thing to do was for him to take responsibility” and “step down from the board immediately.”

The statement added that Bekier will “work with the board to transition his executive responsibilities in an orderly manner.” Last year, Bekier ranked No. 14 on Inside Asian Gaming’s Power 50 list. His exit is reminiscent of the exodus of executives and board members at Crown Resorts, amid a similar probe that threatened Crown operations in three Australian states.

Crown was found unsuitable to hold gaming licenses in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia, but in each case was given the chance to right the wrongs and create a sound and compliant corporate culture.

According to the Australian Financial Review, Star Sydney reportedly disguised up to $900 million in gambling funds as hotel expenses, and continued to do business with Macau-based junket Suncity after publicly claiming it was no longer in business with the junket (Suncity’s VIP room simply moved from one salon in the casino to another).

Star Entertainment compliance manager Graeme Stevens said he knowingly misled the NSW regulator in regard to Suncity’s junket operations.

In addition, as Asia Gaming Brief reported last week, Star allegedly “established a backchannel to transfer at least $76 million from Macau to Australia after its own bank account in the city was shut for non-compliance reasons.”

In more alarming testimony, high roller Phillip Dong Fang Lee conceded that he put $11 million on his China UnionPay card in a single day without any red flags being raised; multiple transactions were listed as hotel expenses, though Lee did not stay at the Pyrmont casino.

In response to the upheaval, Australian law firm Slater and Gordon has launched a shareholder class action against Star, representing investors who acquired shares between March 2016 and March 2022. The claim alleges that the plaintiffs materially suffered as a result of Star’s misdeeds, which caused share values to decline by more than 25 percent and wiped more than AU$1 billion from the company’s value.

“For the last six years, Star has held itself out to be a model casino operator that took its obligations seriously and followed not only the letter of the law, but the spirit of the law,” said Slater and Gordon associate Ben Zocco.

“Star insisted that it took compliance seriously and ran its business ethically, honestly and with integrity. Our investigations to date, in addition to the extraordinary evidence revealed so far in the Bell Inquiry, suggests that they did everything but.

“When investors purchase shares in a listed company, they are entitled to assume that all of the material information relevant to its financial position had been disclosed to the market.

“Our case is that Star failed to do so, and, therefore, investors are entitled to compensation for their losses.” Star said in a filing that it intends to defend the proceedings.