Bell Inquiry Report Suggests Star Sydney Unfit for Casino License

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The regulatory review into Star’s Sydney casino complex was dubbed as the “Bell Inquiry”, as it was spearheaded by SC Adam Bell. As the review drew to a close, the following report is intuitively known as the “Bell Report” and its biggest finding is that the Star Sydney is unfit for a license.

Star Unfit for License

From allegations of money laundering and fraud to organized crime links, Star’s Sydney establishment was under a scrupulous and damning review that started in November 2021.

During the process, some seriously damaging findings were rearing their heads during each hearing, with Naomi Sharp SC serving as counsel assisting saying that Star is “not fit” for license as far back as May of this year. Now, the NSW Independent Casino Commission (NICC) Chief Commissioner, Philip Crawford, said that “Not only were huge amounts of money disguised by the casino as hotel expenses, but vast sums of cash evaded anti-money laundering protocols in numerous situations, most alarmingly through Salon 95 – the secret room with a second cash cage.”

The Bell Report had thirty recommendations, and according to the NICC media release, a “show cause notice” has been issued to The Star. While Star is preparing to respond to the NICC notice, the regulatory body will be deliberating upon its options for disciplinary actions. Mr. Crawford commented on the Bell Report, saying that “The report is, quite frankly, shocking. It provides evidence of an extensive compliance breakdown in key areas of The Star’s business.”

Legislative Changes in Action

The NICC’s establishment was one of the biggest changes among a general sweep of regulatory reforms, and it now completely replaces NSW’s Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority (ILGA) as the supreme casino regulatory body to oversee and enforce the new laws, that came into force on September 5.

Inquiries into Star and Crown Resorts prompted a serious reformative process in the gambling industry’s regulation in Australia, with NICC’s creation being a direct recommendation from the Bergin Inquiry. Queensland announced its plans to introduce a sweep of changes in May, and Victoria’s government implemented legislative changes in August. New South Wales also took some time to get up to speed, but Star’s regulatory review proved that reforms were sorely needed.

As per the new changes in New South Wales, the newly-formed NICC can fine casinos up to AU$100 million, along with a wide variety of tools that “have enhanced the regulatory apparatus with which to act on Bell’s report”. Alongside the hefty fines that NICC can impose, the disciplinary actions that the NICC can impose include appointing a manager, suspension, and of course – revoking a license.

All these instruments are at NICC’s disposal to “develop an approach that is proportionate to the seriousness of the report.” with Mr. Crawford being cited by ABC News as saying that “The institutional arrogance of this company has been breath-taking,” indicating that Star’s Sydney operation is definitely at risk here.

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