The Star Entertainment Group has appointed an independent monitor and committed to a cultural overhaul as part of its ongoing efforts to hold on to its flagship casino licence.
The casino group on Tuesday said it was willing to do “whatever necessary” to restore its suitability as an operator after a lengthy inquiry led by Adam Bell SC found evidence of an extensive compliance breakdown that led to money laundering, criminal infiltration and large-scale fraud.
The NSW Independent Casino Commission (NICC) will now consider The Star’s show-cause response before deciding on a course of action, which could include revoking the company’s Sydney licence permanently, imposing monetary penalties or imposing an external manager.
The Star said on Tuesday that its renewal plan, streamlined into nine work streams, will incorporate all relevant recommendations and expectations highlighted in the Bell report, Queensland’s Gotterson report (once received), and by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre.
The nine work streams have 48 specific initiatives and 130 design implementation milestones to be run by an executive sponsor and tracked by international law firm Allen & Overy, which will act as the group’s independent monitor.
The Star’s remediation plan is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2024, with the full cost of the program to be determined upon the release and incorporation of the Gotterson report.
The public inquiry on Star was launched after a 2021 investigation by the Herald, The Age and 60 Minutes alleged The Star enabled money laundering, organised crime, large-scale fraud and foreign interference in its Australian casinos for years, even though the board was warned its anti-money-laundering controls were failing.
The Bell report savaged The Star’s culture of greed, labelling its board to be “well-meaning” but unaware of the crimes committed under its watch despite similar activity uncovered at its rival Crown Resorts. Meanwhile, the head of the NICC, Phillip Crawford, has criticised The Star for an overly legalistic and defensive approach to the inquiry.
“We are committed to do what it takes to deliver our Remediation Plan and restore The Star Sydney to suitability,” the company’s interim executive chairman Ben Heap said in the show-cause notice.
“The team to lead us on the path to suitability will be very different to those who led The Star in the past.”
Heap pleaded with the commission to consider the group’s long-term viability, arguing the “appropriate” action should “allow The Star to continue to operate the license, under strict supervision and being held accountable to the milestones on the remediation plan.”
“Mr Bell noted and welcomed that there was early work underway, but it is plain that we had not acted with the necessary urgency. You have made this clear to us. We have a lot to do to restore a constructive and open working relationship with the NICC,” he continued.
The Star’s interim chief executive officer Geoff Hogg resigned on Monday, the fifth major executive to resign from the company since the beginning of the inquiry in March.
The group has appointed Michael Issenberg, Anne Ward and David Foster to the board and has appointed Scott Wharton to lead The Star Sydney, as well as appointing a new chief risk officer, company secretary, and acting general manager, subject to regulatory approval.
The Star has also created a new executive team for the NSW licensee to eventually be led by Wharton and also committed to implementing an independent compliance committee for The Star Sydney as recommended by Bell. The company has also changed its whistleblower policy to boost disclosure of inappropriate conduct and has committed to implementing a new hotline by November 30.
Before the release of the Bell report, The Star closed its Marquee nightclub, suspended all rebate-play programs, closed its international offices and bank accounts, ceased its international junkets and China Union Pay in connection with gaming.
It has since signed statements of work with PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte to increase its headcount by 53 in safe gambling, financial crime, risk and compliance, including 25 external financial crime specialists. The group said on Tuesday that it will replace this seconded headcount with permanent employees in time.
The Star has also boosted its security staff numbers at Star Sydney and will have an additional 15 facial recognition cameras to its existing fleet of 55 in operation by December to prevent excluded people from entering the casino. It has also entered into a self-exclusion sharing arrangement with neighbouring casino Crown Sydney.
The group committed to developing new systems to transition to compulsory carded play and cashless gaming, as required by the recent NSW Casino Control Act amendments.
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Source: Thanks smh.com