Star inquiry left hanging by a report it may never get access to

Part of the Gotterson inquiry into Star casino’s operations have been left in limbo because a key report it must refer to may never be made public.

Aug 29, 2022, updated Aug 29, 2022
Star Entertainment's resort and casino on the Gold Coast. (File image).

Star Entertainment's resort and casino on the Gold Coast. (File image).

In submissions on the final day of public hearings, counsel assisting Jonathan Horton, QC, said the inquiry’s terms of reference directed that it “pay regard’’ to the Bell report into Star’s operations in NSW. 

“It’s not due to be finished until August 31 and will be given to the regulator in that state and that doesn’t mean that it will be made public. That is a matter for NSW,’’ Horton said.

“For that reason, we have left, for the moment in the submissions, the overall import, overall significance or any of the larger findings because propriety requires we not only have the Bell report first, but there might be adverse findings that arise that need to be put to Star first before that progresses.’’

Inquiry chair Robert Gotterson, QC, said: “It does leave in limbo that issue. We can but hope that it is made publicly available. There is no other way we might obtain it.’’

In further submissions, Horton said that although Star had made progress in its anti-money laundering controls, they were “seriously deficient’’ until quite recently.

He said an example of that was the revelation of a gambler referred to as Person One fronting up to the Gold Coast casino with a plastic Chemist Warehouse bag full of cash in 2021. That was three years after a review by KPMG on the issue found serious issues.

He said it should have triggered red flags and warning bells and it didn’t. 

“They’re the real test of when this became not seriously deficient,’’ he said.

Star has accepted deficiencies but has said they had been addressed and were on the way to being best practice. The inquiry accepted that significant steps had been made.

In relation to people who were banned from casinos interstate but allowed to continue gambling in Queensland, Gareth Beacham, QC, for Star said it was done in the belief that it needed further evidence than that of an interstate banning.

“The Star knew but it had to find other evidence to justify (exclusions),’’ he said.

But Gotterson rejected that.

“That’s difficult to accept as an accurate legal summation,’’ he said.

Gotterson later referred to them as “glaring deficiencies’’.

Horton said in relation to the exclusions of banned persons, it took until earlier this year for the full program to be completed and it wasn’t until 2014 that the company mirrored the banning in other states.

“That’s a very long time for exclusions that have happened long before.

He said there were people that “who definitely should not be in a casino”.

The inquiry’s public hearings have been completed.

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