Northern exposure: Now it’s Townsville casino junkets in watchdog’s sights

Queensland’s casino regulator is continuing to probe the state’s gambling industry after major operator Star was found unfit to hold a licence, with the government confirming it has been investigating allegations involving the Ville Casino in Townsville for nine months.

Nov 15, 2022, updated Nov 15, 2022

In response to questions from the opposition, Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman said on Tuesday the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation probe, launched in February, was well advanced.

Further north, the Reef Casino in Cairns has meanwhile pleaded guilty to breaching the Casino Control Act through a number of unapproved agreements after a separate investigation.

Its operators will be sentenced in Cairns Magistrates Court in December.

Both north Queensland investigations were only revealed in the midst of a public inquiry into Star Entertainment’s suitability to hold a casino licence led by retired justice Robert Gotterson.

In August, the government declined calls to include the allegations against the two north Queensland casinos in the Gotterson probe, saying the OLGR investigations were ongoing.

Star has until November 25 to show cause as to why it shouldn’t face disciplinary action after being declared unfit to hold its two Queensland casino licences.

“We have recently seen breaches of the law by casinos across the country, with the ongoing suitability of major casinos to remain licensed brought into question,” the attorney-general said in response to the question on notice.

“Casinos in Queensland are required to operate lawfully, ethically and in a way that maintains the highest standards of integrity and public confidence

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“Queensland casinos remain subject to ongoing compliance monitoring and can expect action to be taken if they fall short of requirements.”

Star faces potential penalties, including fines of up to $100 million or being stripped of its casino licences under new state laws passed last month.

The Queensland inquiry was ordered after the NSW gaming regulator found Star repeatedly breached the law, misled banks and allowed criminals to operate with impunity and gamble almost without restraint.

Gotterson’s report after the Queensland inquiry said the company’s profit focus had resulted in a “serious dereliction” of its anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing responsibilities.

Star also actively encouraged people banned from its NSW and Victorian venues, who it had “grounds to suspect may have been involved in criminal activity”, to gamble at its Queensland premises, the report said.

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