Star Entertainment Group not fit to run Sydney casino, investigation finds

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Star Entertainment Group is “not fit” to hold a license for its Sydney casino, a public inquiry has announced.

An investigation by the NSW Gaming Regulator is investigating the company’s ability to run its casino in Pyrmont.

Several senior executives resigned during the investigation, which heard allegations of money laundering, fraud and criminal infiltration at the casino.

Investigating attorney Naomi Sharp SC delivered a scathing assessment of the casino’s procedures on Tuesday.

This included “unethical behavior” within the legal team, a VIP team that was “not properly supervised” and “very serious failings” in risk management frameworks.

She said the responsibility for failures rests “up with the board”.

Matt Bekier said resigning from his board was the right thing to do.(PA: Dan Peled)

In late March, CEO and managing director Matt Bekier resigned from Star’s board, saying he wanted to take “responsibility” for the misconduct uncovered during the investigation.

But Ms Sharp expressed doubts about whether the departure of the executives would allow The Star to continue its activities.

“There is more to the issue of fitness than particular individuals within society.”

Although Ms Sharp accepted that some employees, including outgoing CEO Matt Bekier, were “outspoken and forthright” in their testimony, she was more scathing about others.

She said chief financial officer Harry Theodore was “very reluctant to make concessions”.

Others she called “very unsatisfactory” and “evasive”.

She also criticized the board for being “passive” to the dangers posed by big foreign players.

“There was a failure to bring a questioning mindset to what management reported,” she said.

Ms Sharp urged Adam Bell SC, who is leading the investigation, to take a more “nuanced” view of corporate accountability.

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Adam Bell SC will deliver the final verdict. (Provided)

“You have to consider the leaders of the organization, but also situate them in the broader context of governance, risk management and the culture of the company in general.”

Ms Sharp said that although there is no aptitude test for holding a casino license, the guidelines established during the Bergin and Finkelstein inquiries into Crown Casino offered useful guidance.

She said casino operators must follow the law, act honestly, deter illegal and immoral behavior, not exploit players, take active steps to minimize harm caused by gambling, and cooperate fully with regulators.

There had been a “failure” of a number of code of conduct requirements at The Star, Ms Sharp said.

Chairman John O’Neill, chief financial officer Harry Theodore, casino manager Greg Hawkins and chief legal and risk officer and company secretary Paula Martin have all resigned in recent weeks.

Ms Sharp said that given the large number of executives who have resigned, it is “not necessary to draw conclusions about their suitability”.

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