The Queensland government has announced an independent probe into Star Entertainment’s suitability to continue holding casino licences in the state.
Queensland’s Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman said an independent review would be launched into Star Entertainment and its casino licences in Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
“The Palaszczuk Government takes the allegations of money laundering and integrity issues very seriously,” she said.
“Investigations by the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation into The Star are ongoing, and they are continuing to work with the Queensland Police and AUSTRAC.
“There will also be an independent expert review into the suitability of The Star to keep its casino licence.”
Ms Fentiman said cabinet would consider the terms of reference to determine exactly what the review would look into.
She also ensured measures would be taken to keep Queensland’s casinos open if the inquiry discovers improper practices — like granting provisional licenses.
“I’m not going to pre-empt any of the findings of a review, but even if a casino is found to not be suitable there are things we can put in place provisionally to make sure they do meet all the expectations of the regulator and the community,” Ms Fentiman said.
The inquiry comes after allegations of money laundering and fraudulent activity at Star Entertainment’s venues in New South Wales.
Star Entertainment is currently building its $3.6 billion Queen’s Wharf development in Brisbane which is expected to open in the first half of 2023.
The state opposition has supported the review but has called for it to incorporate public hearings.
“The extraordinary allegations aired during the New South Wales gaming regulator’s inquiry mean legitimate questions are worthy of being asked here in Queensland,” Shadow Treasurer David Janetzki said.
“This must be an independent and open inquiry with public hearings to guarantee we get to the truth.
“Queenslanders need to be certain that Queen’s Wharf is built on the strongest foundations of integrity.”
Shadow Minister for Integrity in Government Fiona Simpson said the opposition was disappointed the review was not announced sooner.
“It beggars belief that the state government in Queensland didn’t know there was a problem here as well,” she said.
“It’s so important that this inquiry is transparent it gets to the bottom of what’s been going on, but it is disappointing that it’s taken so long before there’s even been a starting point … here in Queensland.”
NSW inquiry told Star ‘not suitable’ to hold licence
A public inquiry held in NSW heard closing statements last month and delivered a scathing assessment of the casino’s procedures.
The inquiry by the NSW gaming regulator investigated the company’s suitability to run its casino in Pyrmont.
Several top executives resigned over the course of the inquiry, which heard allegations of money laundering, fraud and criminal infiltration at the casino.
The outcome of the NSW inquiry is due to be handed down at the end of the month.
Ms Fentiman said that the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulator (OLGR) and Queensland police have already conducting investigations in Queensland following allegations that emerged about STAR’s activities in New South Wales.
“We’re intending to build on what’s happening in New South Wales with the Bell inquiry,” Ms Fentiman said.
“OLGR have now got to the point in their investigations where they do think that we do need an independent expert review to look at the ongoing suitability of STAR to hold a casino license [in Queensland].
“Those terms of reference and public hearings and compulsion powers will be released next week.
“We’re basically going to accept the finding of the Bell Inquiry in New South Wales.”
The Queensland government’s announcement comes after legislation targeting money laundering and criminal activity in Queensland’s casinos was tabled in state parliament last month.
The bill would require casinos to report their own breaches of law and provides investigators the legal power to demand information.
It also increases penalties for casinos breaking the law.
In a statement at the time, Ms Fentiman said the laws follow criminal investigations into Star and Crown Casinos in other states.
“These reforms seek to address concerns which have emerged from the public inquiries into casinos operated by Crown Resorts in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia, as well as investigations underway into the Star Entertainment Group,” she said.
“As a result of the changes, there will be significant pecuniary penalties as a disciplinary action of up to $50 million.
“These reforms are considered to be examples of best practice casino regulation and will be in place before the opening of the new casino at Queen’s Wharf to be operated by The Star.”
She flagged further changes to the legislation may be considered at the conclusion of current investigations into The Star Entertainment Group.