Probe into Star Entertainment Group casinos begins

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Probe into Star Entertainment Group casinos begins
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The long-anticipated probe into Star Entertainment Group in Queensland got underway on Tuesday morning this week, with the first day of hearing establishing that the company’s Queensland properties may have been encouraging high-risk gamblers to visit and play at the property, local media ABC reported.

The investigation, which is currently presided over by Robert Gotterson, a former judge with an impeccable record, dug deeper into the alleged anti-money laundering breaches along with ties tojunket operators and what happened behind closed doors at VIP rooms in Star’s Queensland operations.

The Star Gold Coast and Treasury Brisbane, which are the two properties owned by the Group in the state, are currently under scrutiny, along with an upcoming AU$3.8bn project, the Queen’s Wharf, which is expected to open doors in 2023. The Queen’s Wharf is another pitfall for both the company and surprisingly - government officials.

According to ABC Investigations, some of the investors and stakeholders in the project have suspected ties to criminal organizations in Macau and across Asia. Explaining the connection, the media argued that Chow Tai Fook Enterprises, a Hong Kong-based jewelry company, is one of the entities that own a stake in Queen’s Wharf.

The media claims that Chow Tai Fook Enterprises maintained ties with Alvin Chau, despite the latter’s arrest over alleged money laundering and other charges. Queensland government is also facing difficult questions it needs to answer as the failure of probity checks is largely ascribed to the state’s regulators, not so much to Star Entertainment which failed to detect the alleged criminal ties itself.

Jonathan Horton QC, the counsel assisting with the investigation, delivered statements on Tuesday, focusing on the problem with high-risk gamblers being encouraged to come and play at the property despite "red flags."

According to Horton, at least some of these gamblers should not have been admitted to casino floors, let alone invited. "They were involved in criminal activity," Horton added as he outlined the issue. The suspected gamblers were also using China UnionPay debit and credit card facilities, which made it easier for Chinese nationals to gamble at the properties.

The total amount of money transacted in Star Queensland’s properties was lower than the amounts in New South Wales, Horton noted. Some $55m is expected to have been transacted this way. Queensland’s probe is a direct result of the regulatory action taken in other parts of the country.

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