Australian Casino the Star on the Verge of Losing Its License

The New South Wales (NSW) gambling regulator continues its investigation of the controversial casino The Star. Senior counsel Naomi Sharp stated that the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority’s (ILGA)’s findings found the establishment unfit to hold a license.

The Star Had a Long History of Disregard for the Rules

ILGA’s 26 public hearings exposed a substantial number of serious infractions. The casino allowed select VIP customers to deposit and withdraw $900 million via Chinese debit cards and disguised the transactions as hotel expenses in order to deceive banks. The process included fictitious hotel invoices where clients would rent “dummy rooms.” This scheme allowed wealthy patrons to move tens of thousands of dollars each month. Chinese billionaire Phillip Dong Fang Lee made over $100 million worth of transactions despite never staying at the hotel. Over 14 years, the real estate tycoon managed to pass an impressive $2 billion through Star.

Suncity, the junket operator that brought Chinese high-rollers to the casino, operated a hidden VIP gambling area within Star and maintained an illegal cash cage. The practice continued despite Suncity’s well-known ties to crime syndicates. Alvin Chau, another Chinese billionaire and the man behind Suncity, ran a casino inside the casino with Star’s full knowledge and support. 

The Star also circumvented regulations to allow unauthorized overseas deposits. The operator failed to conduct probity checks on transactions worth $70 million and even assisted foreign clients in hiding their payments from the Chinese government.

The Regulator Has Found No Evidence in Favor of the Casino

Over a dozen senior executives at Star have resigned, but ILGA does not consider this sufficient for the casino to keep its license. According to SC Naomi Sharp, the company had only now begun its journey to redemption. She pointed out that most executives to testify before the regulator had not given credible testimonies and had not yet reflected on the brand’s failures. 

Sharp added that senior management at the casino had “repeatedly misled” the New South Wales regulator. According to her, allowing the brand to continue operating would only be possible after clear evidence of positive change. However, the senior council concluded that The Star had undergone some negative changes over the past months. In her words, “this evidence does not exist.”

Star May Become the Second Australian Operator to Lose Its License

If Star’s license gets revoked, the event would be the second such case in the past couple of years. In February 2021, Crown Resorts lost its right to operate after an investigation by the regulator uncovered instances of money laundering, law breaches, and ties to criminal organizations. Many of The Star’s overseas VIP customers were also regulars at Crown, and junket operator Suncity serviced both casinos.

Star’s lawyers claim that while the casino was unsuited to hold a gambling license at the start of the review, the recent resignations of senior executives and continued efforts to better abide by regulations have increased the establishment’s compliance to a suitable level.

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