The Star not suitable to regain NSW casino licence, counsel finds

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Counsel assisting the NSW inquiry into the culture of The Star Entertainment Group has found the company is not suitable to regain independent control of its Sydney casino but came short of arguing it should be shut down entirely.

Caspar Conde– who conducted the bulk of the inquiry on behalf of Adam Bell, SC– said it was clear the struggling casino was not ready to operate independently and the group had barely progressed since Bell first found it unfit to hold its coveted casino licence in October 2022.

The Star Entertainment Group’s future is currently in the hands of Adam Bell, SC, who is due to determine whether it should stay open on May 31. Credit: Brent Lewin

“There’s evidence of … The Star Entertainment Group being six months into their remediation journey, but they’re not 20 months in … The remaining 14 months have been lost,” Conde told Bell.

Bell is considering submissions following three weeks of hearings into the culture of The Star after the NSW Independent Casino Commission raised doubts over its readiness to operate independently. He is due to issue his second report into the embattled business to the NSW regulator at the end of this month and his findings may result in the casino closing its doors forever.

Conde asserted that not a single witness – including current board members, the former chief executive or the chair – had argued the business was ready to operate without some sort of external supervision. The company has operated under the watchful eye of independent manager Nick Weeks since its licence was suspended in 2022.

Conde said The Star should remain under external management or supervision, but did not specifically refer to the continuation of Weeks’ tenure.

He cited the group’s recent failure to stop $3.2 million from being taken from a broken cash machine as evidence the company does not have the right internal controls in place to prevent fraud or properly filter potential customers.

“The sort of criminals who can put together a racket of that kind in a short space of time, conduct 1800 transactions and extract $3.16 million, they’re just not the sort of people who should be anywhere near the casino,” Conde said.

Weeks’ licence has already been extended three times since he was imposed in 2022, as the state regulator continues to doubt the company’s remediation progress to the chagrin of key members of its former management team.

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