Second Inquiry into The Star Sydney to Involve Public Hearings

Alan Campbell

Updated by

Alan Campbell

Last Updated on 25th March 2024, 05:39 PM

Second Inquiry into The Star Sydney to Involve Public Hearings

In Australia, the second inquiry from the New South Wales Independent Casino Commission (NICC) regulator into the license suitability of The Star Sydney is to involve public hearings.

Owned and operated by Brisbane-headquartered The Star Entertainment Group Limited, The Star Sydney was left reeling in 2022 when an official investigation found significant shortcomings in its cultural, communications and anti-money laundering processes.

However, the 351-room Sydney casino location was controversially allowed to keep its casino license so long as it paid a record fine of just over $65 million and agreed to clean up its act via the completion of a remediation plan under the supervision of independent manager Nicholas Weeks.

Casual Consideration

This supervisor’s term was later extended for a second time through to the end of June as the NICC was not convinced The Star Sydney was advancing its remediation scheme in a timely manner. 

Before directing the start of a second inquiry, the regulator's Chief Commissioner, Philip Crawford, expressed his displeasure with the slow pace of change. This time, prominent local attorney Adam Bell will serve as the inquiry's lead investigator.

“The NICC has had concerns about the extent to which remediation is attributable to the manager’s oversight and direction versus what is being driven by The Star Sydney’s reform agenda,” Crawford said. “Bell Two will bring us back to the Bell Report and The Star Sydney’s efforts to regain its casino licence in the shadow of that report.”

Communal Component

 Bell has now requested the coming examination of The Star Sydney be open to the wider New South Wales community as it is to deal with matters ‘in the public interest’. The equity, commercial and administrative law specialist also asked the NICC to extend the term of the impending inquiry by two months beyond its original 15-week term.

“There is much at stake for The Star Sydney so the NICC is giving the casino every chance it can to demonstrate whether it has the capacity and competence to achieve suitability,” Crawford said.

“This includes meeting its financial obligations under the casino licence and funding its remediation program sufficiently. The inquiry will provide the NICC with the information needed to make an important decision for The Star Sydney, its employees, its stakeholders and the wider community.”

Executive Exit

This news comes just a few days after the Chief Executive Officer for The Star Entertainment Group Limited, Robbie Cooke, announced he would be stepping down with a ‘heavy heart’ after 18 months in charge. The former Tyro Payments Limited and Tatts Group Limited boss also expressed his belief The Star Sydney would be unlikely to keep its New South Wales casino license should he remain at the helm.

“It also seems that the Chief Commissioner did not consider I was moving with sufficient speed with the reforms and changes being implemented at The Star Sydney; a view with that I respectfully and fundamentally disagree,” Cooke told The Sydney Morning Herald.

Friday furthermore saw Christina Katsibouba resign as the Chief Financial Officer for The Star Entertainment Group Limited, to be followed out the door by the company’s long-serving Chief of Staff, Peter Jenkins. All of these departures came some two weeks after George Hughes stood down as the casino operator’s Chief Customer Officer.

Promising Pledge

For its part, The Star Entertainment Group Limited declared it ‘welcomes’ the initiation of a second inquiry and intends to participate ‘in an open, transparent and facilitative manner’. The Sydney-listed firm additionally asserted it aims to ‘dedicate all necessary resources to the inquiry to ensure it meets all its requirements and expectations’.

“The Star Entertainment Group Limited appreciates the opportunity to demonstrate it has the ability to regain suitability and will continue to do all in its power to work cooperatively with all its regulators, including the NICC and its appointed manager,” read a statement from the casino operator. “The Star Entertainment Group Limited remains committed to and focused on executing its remediation plan and earning back the trust of the community.”

Meet The Author

Alan Campbell
Alan Campbell

Alan Campbell has been reporting on the global gambling industry ever since graduating from university in the late-1990s with degrees in journalism, English and history. Now headquartered in the northern English city of Sheffield, he has written on a plethora of topics, companies, regulatory developments and technological innovations for a large number of traditional and digital publications from around the planet.

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