Following the recent Bell Report, which found Australia’s Star Entertainment to be unsuitable to hold a license for its Star Sydney casino in New South Wales (NSW), the company has scrambled to put together a remediation plan in order to maintain operations, releasing a statement via the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) pledging reform.
The five-page statement was signed by Executive Chairman Ben Heap, and was directed towards the NSW Independent Casino Commission (NICC), the regulatory body in control of Star Sydney’s fate.
Star insisted that it will do “whatever is necessary, in consultation with NICC, to restore The Star Sydney to suitability,” by implementing a multi-year “comprehensive remediation plan.” The company asked that it be permitted to remain operational under “strict supervision.”
The Bell Report, which was made public earlier this month, highlighted numerous breaches of financial and responsible gaming regulations, including the transfer of gambling funds via China UnionPay bank cards, as well as illicit relationships with notorious junkets such as Suncity Group. A lack of responsible gaming and harm minimization efforts was also outlined in the report.
According to the statement, Star has partnered with multiple audit firms, including Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers, and has hired 25 additional financial crime consultants in order to ensure better compliance moving forward.
Additionally, the operator asserted that it has implemented various technology upgrades that will better facilitate the advent of cashless gaming—this is to prevent the proliferation of money laundering, and also to get a better handle on problem gaming. It should be noted, however, that some of these upgrades were already mandated by recent legislation.
The NICC has yet to make an official decision on the matter, but is expected to deliver a ruling soon, now that Star has submitted an official response to the Bell Report.
That said, the company is also dealing with more internal turmoil, as Geoff Hogg, the operator’s interim CEO, has announced he is resigning from all positions effective September 26.
Star said that Hogg will remain with the company on a short-term basis in order to facilitate his transition. In the meantime, Heap will assume his duties until Robert Cooke receives regulatory approval to begin his tenure as CEO and managing director.
Hogg’s resignation comes after a separate inquiry in Queensland highlighted multiple failures on Star’s behalf at its Gold Coast and Brisbane casinos—both of which Hogg used to oversee before being named interim CEO—including an improper relationship with Hong Kong-based firm Chow Tai Fook, which is a stakeholder in Star’s multi-billion dollar Queen’s Wharf Brisbane project, currently under construction.
The company has also been accused of soliciting the patronage of high-profile gamblers who were previously banned in other states.
Last month, Hogg told regulators that “in hindsight we clearly should have been asked more questions from that point. I do accept that our policies and procedures were not strong enough and those people should have been excluded earlier.”
Hogg now joins former Chairman John O’Neill and former CEO Matt Bekier as the latest high-profile departure from Star in just the last two years.