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Star Entertainment counsel concedes business may have trumped compliance

Star Entertainment general legal counsel Oliver White has conceded that business concerns may have dominated compliance requirements in the operations of the group’s Sydney casino. 

White was testifying for a second day into the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority inquiry into the company’s business practices. 

According to local media reports, White said it was his personal view he could have done more to alert his superiors of potential problems. 

Much of Thursday’s testimony centered on the fact that junket operator Suncity was handling cash within the casino when it was not authorized to do so. 

White said he definitely felt pressure from within Star to allow Suncity to carry out its operations, but couldn’t recall any specific individual who had applied pressure. 

Suncity had been operating a junket room known as Salon 95 at the Star Sydney since 2016. However, it was moved out of the room into an unbranded location in August 2019. The relationship with the casino continued until October 2020.

White was asked about an email he had received from Angus Buchanan in 2019, which attached a Hong Kong Jockey Club report listing concerns about Suncity and links to organized crime. 

Counsel assisting the inquiry, Naomi Sharp, told White that the report should have been a bombshell. Although White said he did not recollect the sequence of events in 2019. 

In testimony on Wednesday, the lawyer was questioned about the use of China UnionPay cards for gambling at the casino, even though he knew that it was illegal to use the cards for such purposes.

Chinese high rollers swiped their cards at the hotel and the funds were subsequently transferred to the casino and exchanged for chips. White said he felt this was a “legally workable” solution.

The probe began its public hearings into Star’s Sydney operations on March 17th. They were triggered by an investigative documentary in Australia that made similar allegations to those leveled against rival Crown Resorts, which include doing business with a company linked to organized crime and money laundering. Star CEO Matt Bekier has already resigned to take responsibility for his role in the corporate governance lapses at the casino.

Sharon Singleton
Sharon Singleton
Sharon Singleton is a multi-media reporter with experience ranging from website management to reporting and editing for newspapers, news agencies and television. As Managing Editor she's been working with Asia Gaming Brief since 2013 and her specialties are: Business, current affairs, fluent in Italian, French, with working knowledge of Spanish.