New South Wales regulator to begin Star Sydney licence review

The Star Entertainment Group Star

The Star Entertainment Group is facing a review of its Sydney casino operations, which will be spearheaded by the lead senior counsel who assisted the Bergin Inquiry into Crown Resorts.

New South Wales’ Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority has detailed the launch of the inquiry, and has appointed Adam Bell SC to undertake a review of The Star operations. 

The state’s Casino Control Act 1992 mandates that the group must face such a licence review every five years, with its last inquiry conducted by Dr Horton QC being completed in 2016.

Crown Resorts was deemed unsuitable to operate the $2.2bn Crown Sydney Hotel Resort after an inquiry, led by former Supreme Court Judge Patricia Bergin, cited poor corporate governance, deficient risk-management structures and processes, and a poor corporate culture.

Bell is to undertake the review of The Star Sydney in accordance with the Casino Control Act, which could determine if the company is suitable to keep hold of its casino licence in the state.

“Regular reviews of casinos in NSW are required under the Casino Control Act and the last review of The Star was conducted in 2016 by Jonathan Horton QC,” said Philip Crawford, ILGA chair.

“These reviews are carried out with the cooperation of the casino operator to ensure the casino remains free from criminal influence or exploitation and doesn’t cause harm to the public interest. 

“Mr Bell was the lead senior counsel assisting the Bergin Inquiry into Crown Resorts’ Barangaroo casino and, as such, has extensive knowledge of casino regulatory matters in NSW including the issues of concern identified in the Bergin Report. 

“This experience provides Mr Bell with a deep understanding of the current casino landscape which will be invaluable for this role. He is expected to hand down his findings to ILGA in late January 2022.”

In addition to being deemed unsuitable to keep hold of its Sydney casino licence, Crown could potentially face a similar fate in Melbourne and Perth with Royal Commission’s underway in both Victoria and Western Australia.

Last month, the New South Wales government announced that it will support all 19 recommendations from the Bergin inquiry report on the regulation of casinos in the state, as well as the suitability of Crown Resorts to hold a restricted gaming facility licence.

This includes the establishment of an Independent Casino Commission, an independent, dedicated, stand-alone, specialist casino regulator with the necessary framework to meet the extant and emerging risks for gaming and casinos, in addition to a series of legislative reforms.