Star not fit for Sydney casino license: inquiry told

The Star is not fit to regain the license for its lucrative Sydney casino despite suggestions it could be allowed to operate with conditions attached, an inquiry has heard.

The firm’s management has argued that it should be allowed to operate under its currently suspended license with potential conditions imposed or the continuation of an appointed independent manager.

But a second investigation examining the company’s suitability to manage its Sydney casino was on Wednesday told the license should not be restored even with potential conditions.

“A person cannot be unsuitable but rendered suitable by license conditions or the appointment of a manager,” counsel assisting Caspar Conde said in submissions.

The investigation, led by Adam Bell SC, comes two years after the first probe, also headed by Mr Bell, which led to The Star’s Sydney casino license being suspended after evidence of damning anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism failures.

The casino has been allowed to continue under the oversight of a regulatory-appointed manager since 2022.

A number of The Star’s current and former directors told the present inquiry that the casino was still unsuitable to hold a license, including your chair David Foster and his recent replacement, Anne Ward.

Mr Conde noted The Star’s assertion that it was fit to hold the license contrasted with the “unqualified acceptance” of company directors that it remained unsuitable.

The inquiry previously heard regulatory oversight at the casino continued to fail, including in the case of a $3.2 million fraud committed against the company by customers and the falsification of welfare checks on problem gamblers.

The probe also heard of internal messages between Mr Foster and former casino chief executive Robbie Cooke about “prepping for war” with the regulator.

The Star accepted in its submissions that those messages were inappropriate.

Its barrister, Bret Walker SC, said past mistakes at the company were unlikely to be repeated.

But Mr Conde said the terminology suggested a perception at the company that the casino regulator and The Star’s appointed managers were the firm’s adversaries who were “attacking or assaulting staff.”

The Star Entertainment Group, which also operates casinos in Brisbane and the Gold Coast, recently told investors that it had received interest from “a number of external parties” about a potential sale.

They included an initial pitch from a consortium representing Hard Rock hotels and resorts in the Pacific.

The firm said on Tuesday that it was yet to undertake any substantive discussions.