The boss of Star Entertainment refused to ignore the closure of The Star Sydney during COVID-19 in assessing whether customers are eligible to participate in the international low-tax casino player discount program.
A New South Wales gambling regulator’s investigation into Star’s suitability to have a casino license in Sydney has so far sparked the resignation of Star CEO Matt Beckier, who resigned last month following testimony given during the investigation.
The investigation was sparked by reports accusing Star of suspicion of money laundering, organized crime, fraud and foreign interference in their playgrounds.
Star Casino CEO for New Wales, Greg Hawkins, was outraged by the international oversight of players at Sydney Casino during its closure from March to June 2020 due to COVID-19.
The investigation said that to qualify for the low-tax international casino discount program, players could not spend more than 183 days a year in Australia, but a lawyer helping Naomi Sharpe SC suggested it was violated during the pandemic when international borders were closed.
In September 2020, Mr. Hawkins received internal advice, the investigation said that anyone in New Wales for more than 183 days must be transferred to a “fee-free calculation” to comply with casino rules.
Earlier, evidence was presented that casinos paid the NSW government a much lower tax on international discounts than on local government games.
“I understand we couldn’t ignore the casino closing days,” Mr. Hawkins said during an investigation Wednesday.
“But you ignored them, as it turned out, didn’t you? Miss Sharpe asked.
“No,” the witness said.
“It’s not true, is it?” then the lawyer filed.
“I don’t think I ignored the closing days in my assessment,” he replied.
The investigation said the NSW gaming regulator asked Star to assess the residence status of 14 cartridges during the pandemic, but there were problems with “discount audits” at the casinos of seven of those players.
“I accept that there was no checklist for these customers,” Mr. Walker said when asked when the casino staff did not think it needed to be filled out.
Ms. Sharpe then told him, “What you say with respect, Mr. Hawkins, makes absolutely no sense.”
Mr Hawkins admitted that he had not taken any steps to inform the regulator of the improperly completed process, saying in response to a request: “I do not understand what has been notified.”
Mr. Hawkins previously served as managing director of The Star Sydney and had a “long career” in the casino industry, including in Macau for Crown Resorts.
Harry Theodore and Mr. Beckier are also testifying this week.
The investigation is ongoing before Adam Bell SC.