The Star unsuitable to hold a casino licence, final Bell Inquiry submissions claim

The Star unsuitable to hold a casino licence, final Bell Inquiry submissions claim

The Star Entertainment Group (ASX: SGR) has been declared unsuitable to hold a NSW casino licence in closing submissions by the special counsel who was charged with examining witnesses at the second Bell inquiry.

Caspar Conde, the special counsel assisting Adam Bell SC, has gone even further to say that there is no specific time in which the inquiry could be satisfied that The Star could return to suitability.

Conde was this week responding to final submissions from The Star which have been received since the commencement of closing submissions on 13 May.

Noting that The Star has made submissions that it is suitable, subject to conditions proposed by the NSW Independent Casino Commission (NICC) or by having a manager appointed to oversee its affairs, Conde says these options are matters for the commission to decide.

“You have not been asked to look at licence conditions, but you have been asked to look at the entities that would be subject to them,” Conde told Bell.

“So, in terms of present suitability, our submission remains that you would conclude that The Star and Star Entertainment are not presently suitable, regardless of any proposal in relation to licence conditions or the manager.”

Conde added that there was “no basis in the evidence to discern a future time by which the inquiry can be satisfied that The Star and Star Entertainment will or are likely to become suitable”.

The closing submissions are seen as a precursor to the tone of Bell’s final report to the NICC following his second inquiry into The Star, which was triggered by a breakdown in the relationship between the regulator and The Star's former CEO Robbie Cooke and former chairman David Foster.

The inquiry was called by the NICC on 19 February and was set to run for 15 weeks in private sessions, but Bell later called for an extension and for the hearings to be made public in April.

Early evidence at the inquiry revealed a “state of war” between Cooke and Foster against the NICC and Nicholas Weeks, the special manager appointed by the NICC to oversee The Star’s remediation program.

The inquiry initially focused on private messages between Cooke and Foster earlier this year after Cooke prepared a response to the special manager’s findings presented to the board in December 2023.

The Star’s board was told at that meeting that the NICC had lost confidence in Cooke to deliver The Star’s remediation plan.

The inquiry was told that the private messages between Cooke and Foster denoted an air of suspicion about the NICC that was not conducive to an appropriate working relationship between The Star’s board and the regulator.

Conde made note that The Star has since submitted that these messages were “inappropriate”. He also noted that The Star conceded “a mindset of being suspicious, fearful and possibly defiant” was both “foolish and counterproductive”.

“There were some references in the oral submissions, both from The Star entities and Mr Cooke, to Mr Cooke being like a wartime president,” said Conde.

“Picking up on that analogy, the problem is that Mr Cooke regarded the NICC as an enemy.”

Bell asked Conde if he agreed with submissions that the response by Cooke to the special manager’s report should be seen as a “whole board response”.

Conde said many of these matters “only arose from the fact that Mr Cooke was entrusted with principal responsibility for Star Entertainment's response”.

“He was seemingly at liberty to draft as he saw fit, including ignoring the considered views of board members and the company's legal advisors.

“If that is right, that would be, in our submission, a very good example of why it was a mistake for Star Entertainment not to have moved Mr Cooke on in December 2023, after the NICC's loss of confidence earlier that month.”

Cooke resigned as CEO on 22 March, ahead of the inquiry’s public hearings starting. Foster announced his resignation on 29 April.

Bell is due to present his final report to the NICC on 31 July 2024.

Enjoyed this article?

Don't miss out on the knowledge and insights to be gained from our daily news and features.

Subscribe today to unlock unlimited access to in-depth business coverage, expert analysis, and exclusive content across all devices.

Support independent journalism and stay informed with stories that matter to you.

Subscribe now and get 50% off your first year!

Four time-saving tips for automating your investment portfolio
Partner Content
In today's fast-paced investment landscape, time is a valuable commodity. Fortunately, w...
Etoro
Advertisement

Related Stories

Cash transporter Armaguard receives $50m lifeline to stay afloat

Cash transporter Armaguard receives $50m lifeline to stay afloat

As cash processing, storage and transport company Armaguard struggl...

Icon-Elanor JV plans $90m logistics estate in Melbourne's northern suburbs

Icon-Elanor JV plans $90m logistics estate in Melbourne's northern suburbs

Icon Developments has exchanged contracts to acquire a strateg...

Cettire loses $411m in value as shares plummet 48pc

Cettire loses $411m in value as shares plummet 48pc

All of the extraordinary share price gains made by Melbourne-based ...

Fines of $10 million will force supermarkets to rethink exploiting suppliers, but more could be done

Fines of $10 million will force supermarkets to rethink exploiting suppliers, but more could be done

Suppliers of food and other products have been complaining for year...