The Queensland government has fined Star Entertainment Group $100m and threatened a 90-day suspension of its casino licence if it does not “remediate its management and operations”, having earlier been found unsuitable to hold a licence.
Star runs casinos in Gold Coast and Brisbane, and plans to move its Brisbane operation from the old Treasury building to an under-construction $3.6bn development at Queen’s Wharf next year.
In October former judge Robert Gotterson foundthe company was unsuitable to hold a casino licence and has been guilty of a serious dereliction of its anti-money laundering responsibilities. Gotterson also found Star had deliberately misled the regulator and had a poor corporate culture with a “one-eyed focus” on profit at the expense of patrons.
On Friday, the state attorney-general, Shannon Fentiman, announced penalties totalling $100m in fines, a 90-day suspension of Star’s casino licence – deferred until 1 December 2023 – and the appointment of a special manager.
Queensland has appointed Nicholas Weekes, of Wexted Advisors, who was also appointed to take control of Star’s New South Wales operations after similar findings were made after an inquiry in that state. NSW also fined Star $100m.
Fentiman said she was “appalled at the extent” of Star’s actions in welcoming excluded persons to their casinos and “the exorbitant incentives on offer for questionable gamblers”.
“Queensland casinos must operate with integrity – and it is clear that there have been major failings by the Star group and its entities,” she said.
Fentiman said the deferring of the licence suspension was an “incentive” for Star to get its house in order or face the prospect of shuttering the two Queensland casinos over Christmas next year, after the opening of Queen’s Wharf.
She said it would give the company the opportunity “to remediate its management and operations and get back to a position of suitability”.
“Should the Star make satisfactory progress towards rectifying these issues, the special manager and I may determine to postpone or rescind the suspension of licences,” she said.
“Having a special manager that monitors the operations of the Star in both states [NSW and Queensland] will ensure they will be looked at as one operating entity and provide consistency across jurisdictions.”
The new Queen’s Wharf casino, under construction by the Brisbane River, is being billed as a showpiece development. It is being built by Star and its Hong Kong-based partner, on land owned by the Queensland government.
Queensland entered into the deal with the Star-led consortium in 2015.
With the development close to completion, revelations about the company’s actions and questions about its licence will likely overshadow next year’s planned opening.
Asked about the commercial agreements between Star and the state on Friday, Fentiman said they were commercial-in-confidence.
“Please rest assured … that we will be working very closely with the licence holder, with Queen’s Wharf, to ensure that either Star is suitable by the time it opens, or there will be conditions placed on its licence.”