Star Entertainment

“We will transform our culture, be more transparent, have more robust governance, greater accountability, be open and honest with our regulators and act swiftly when issues arise,” asserted Robbie Cooke, new MD and CEO of Star Entertainment, in a maiden AGM address.

Alongside Chair Ben Heap, the pair united to offer unreserved apologies for the turbulent time that has enveloped the group, as well as vowing to lead Star to a time of prosperity.

In addition to acknowledging that “we need to earn back the trust and confidence of all our stakeholders”, Cooke affirmed that the firm would “work openly and transparently with our regulators” to implement much publicised remediation frameworks.

“From an operational perspective, let me assure you that the whole team understands and acknowledges the need for change. Cultural change is part of that,” Cooke said. “So too is the focus on having all areas of our business operating with the highest levels of integrity. 

“As CEO, I want our regulators and the governments we work with to see us as an operator of the highest repute. At the same time, we should never lose sight of the blue skies on our horizon.” 

Despite a A$6bn Brisbane-based investment progressing, Heap, who kicked things off, first stressed importance and openness at need to address “some issues that have received significant attention and caused understandable concern”.

He continued: “But I first want to extend again my unreserved apology to our more than 70,000 shareholders and the wonderfully committed and hard-working 8,000 team members who do their best every day to deliver world-class experiences to almost 20 million guests who come to our properties every year. 

“While we still have some significant hurdles to clear, I believe The Star has an exciting future”

Robbie Cooke, MD and CEO of Star Entertainment

“To you, and to them, we’re sorry. We let you down. Our licence in New South Wales is currently suspended. We fully understand the seriousness of that situation.” 

With control of the group’s Sydney casino now resting with Nicholas Weeks, who was appointed by the New South Wales Independent Casino Commission, the group was also issued with a A$100m and indefinite licence suspension. Similar penalties could also loom in Queensland.

“The onus is now on us to remediate, and to show the regulator we can be suitable to again be afforded the privilege of holding a casino licence,” Heap noted, before adding that it was clear that the group needed to “fundamentally transform our culture”.

“The Star needs to be more transparent. We need to have more robust governance, greater accountability, more open and honest dialogue with regulators,” Heap commented.

“We need to embrace criticism and act swiftly when issues arise. At the heart of it all, we need to change. 

“And we need to earn back your trust, and the trust and confidence of all our other stakeholders – regulators, governments, team members, guests, suppliers, contractors, and the broader community. It is a long list and we have a long way to go.”

Adding: “I also accept we will be judged by actions, not by words. So, the commitment we have made, and we reaffirm today is that we as a board, together with the management team, will do everything in our power to make the necessary improvements, to earn your trust and restore The Star to suitability. 

“The journey has commenced and at its core is a remediation plan. It serves as the company’s integrated roadmap for improving our governance, culture and controls. 

“We are working to come back stronger, more sustainable, and with our integrity and reputation restored”

Ben Heap, Chair of Star Entertainment

“Given the extent and breadth of the issues raised, our remediation program is a multi-year plan. We have sought specialist external help, and bolstered our own capabilities, with more to come. That’s what is required to fully address and embed the necessary changes across all aspects of our business.”

Taking the mantle, Cooke offered a trading update that noted Queensland casinos are “performing strongly,” while Sydney, as expected, has been impacted by compliance changes and impacts.

In the period from July 1, 2022, to November 15, 2022, Gold Coast and Brisbane domestic revenue was up 32 per cent and nine per cent on pre-COVID levels, with Sydney down 11 per cent.

Furthermore, a series of four strategic priorities were outlined for the year ahead, headlined by progressing on the road back to suitability to hold casino licences in NSW and QLD.

In addition, the need to optimise operations, progress a series of major progress and complete previously announced asset sales were also stipulated.

“While we still have some significant hurdles to clear, I believe The Star has an exciting future. Great assets in great locations, and significant investments that will drive us and the States of NSW and Queensland forward,” Cooke closed.

While Heap added to these remarks by stating: “In closing, I want to reiterate my comments at the outset. We are sorry we let you down. 

“We are working to come back stronger, more sustainable, and with our integrity and reputation restored. Our priority is to return to suitability in NSW and Queensland.”