The latest Star casino inquiry should be open to the NSW public

Truth is like the sun. It casts light on everything. But not if it cannot get into the room.

A second inquiry is to be held into Sydney’s Star Casino after Philip Crawford, chief commissioner of the NSW Independent Casino Commission, was left unsatisfied by the company’s progress in proving it should regain its licence. Surprisingly, unlike the first inquiry in 2022, the next round of hearings will at this point not be open to the public.

The Star casino will be subject to another inquiry.
The Star casino will be subject to another inquiry.Credit: Dion Georgopoulos

Beginning five years ago, investigations by the Herald and 60 Minutes showed how Star Sydney and Crown casinos had sacrificed basic moral principles and perhaps flouted the law in the pursuit of money.

Following our revelations about Star Sydney in 2021, the subsequent first inquiry’s report by Adam Bell SC found the casino unfit to hold a casino licence after exposing a litany of compliance failures. These included anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism failings, a notorious gang-linked junket operator running an illicit cage at the casino and Chinese debit card transactions being disguised as hotel expenses. Bell will also conduct the second inquiry.

As Crawford told the Herald’s Amelia McGuire, there are a number of options open to him upon receipt of Bell’s second inquiry: two of them would spell the end of Star’s casino operations in Sydney.

The regulator could retire the special manager, Nicholas Weeks, whom it first appointed to oversee the casino’s operations at the end of 2022 and whose term it has already extended on three occasions, and close the casino business. It could also decide to cancel Star’s licence. The second inquiry could also choose to extend Weeks’ term again, or it could find the Star has turned the corner and is a suitable operator.

Whatever the outcome, we can only guess at the need for a closed second inquiry. It may be a move to protect the Star Entertainment Group Limited share price during the 15-week inquiry. The Star entered a trading halt on Monday ahead of the inquiry announcement but reopened trading on Tuesday and its share price fell to 45 cents. Remarkably, it was just above $3 before the original Bell inquiry commenced in 2022.

Or the in-camera session may be an attempt to stop Star pulling the plug on its Sydney facility. That would be personal economic catastrophe for some 3000 workers thrown onto the street. But the government needs gambling too. NSW governments have for years been addicted to gaming tax revenue, turning a blind eye to Star Sydney’s miscreant and illegal behaviour under the rubric it was “too big to fail”.


Even amid the odour, the casino flexed its muscles last February when a proposed new tax on casino gaming tables and poker machines to deliver an estimated $120 million a year windfall to the public purse was announced and Star said the $1.6 billion hit would force it to review Sydney operations.

The conduct at Star Sydney is a stain on Australia and NSW’s international business reputation, and we can only hope it has been repairing itself under Crawford’s guidance as it struggles to prove its suitability to hold casino licences.

Governments [have] permitted Star Sydney’s abhorrent behaviour … it seems beyond belief that the public is barred from the second inquiry.

While closure of the casino would be welcomed by many, it would be lamented by many more. The intense interest in the outcome of the inquiry demands the public has full knowledge of how the decision was made.

For years NSW governments permitted Star Sydney’s abhorrent behaviour to continue behind closed doors with little oversight or transparency. It seems beyond belief that the NSW public is now barred from the second inquiry. It is within Bell’s gift to throw open the doors. He should do so as a matter of urgency.

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