Queensland fines Star Entertainment $67.9 million, casino licence under lens

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Visitors to Sydney's Star Casino complex walk past its entrance

(Reuters) – The Queensland government on Friday slapped penalties totalling A$100 million ($67.92 million) on Australia’ Star Entertainment Group and deferred suspension of its casino licences for a year to monitor operations in the state.

A review of the casino firm’s responses to Queensland’s show cause notices issued last month showed “there have been major failings by the Star group and its entities”, the Queensland government said in a statement.

The state’s Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Shannon Fentiman found the extent of Star’s reception of “excluded persons to their casinos and the exorbitant incentives on offer for questionable gamblers” appalling, and said it would result in the firm facing disciplinary actions.

Star’s shares were halted in early market hours, pending an announcement on “determinations regarding disciplinary actions.” The shares resumed trading shortly after the release of the statement.

The penalties are among a slew of actions taken against gambling centres in the country, including the now de-listed Crown Resorts in Victoria being charged A$120 million last month on top of a A$100 million fine in September for unlawfully extending credit through cheques.

Casino operations in Australia have been troubled by damning reports of sidestepping anti-money laundering rules, dysfunctional governance and poor corporate culture, prompting authorities to seek stringent disciplinary actions.

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Earlier this week, New Zealand-listed SkyCity Entertainment Group’s Adelaide casino came under scrutiny, as the regulator initiated civil proceedings for penalties, accusing it of breaching anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws.

SkyCity acknowledged the penalties and flagged that the civil penalty “may be material” if the Federal Court accepts claims filed by the regulator.

Queensland on Friday deferred the 90-day suspension of Star’s casino licences in the state until December next year, saying it will allow the casino operator enough time to “remediate its management and operations and get back to a position of suitability”.

The regulator appointed Nicholas Weeks, who is also managing Star’s Sydney casino since late October, as a special manager for the Queensland operations.

The appointment comes months after Star was found unsuitable to hold a licence in Queensland.

Referring to the Queensland suspension decision, Minister Fentiman said, “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.”

($1 = 1.4723 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Roushni Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Uttaresh.V and Dhanya Ann Thoppil)

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