Star Entertainment loses $932m in value as investors shaken by money laundering allegations

Star Entertainment loses $932m in value as investors shaken by money laundering allegations

The Star Entertainment Group (ASX: SGR) shares fell by almost 23 per cent today in the wake of media reports alleging the company enabled suspected money laundering and organised crime, wiping $932 million from its market capitalisation in one day.

The allegations - which also included accusations of hosting high-roller gamblers who were foreign interference agents and corporate fraudsters - came from an investigation conducted by the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and 60 Minutes, reportedly based on the testimonies of multiple casino and law enforcement sources.

The investigation also revealed a confidential report was commissioned by the casino operator to KPMG in 2018, which showed alleged failings in Star's anti-money laundering practices and risk assessments for Chinese gambling junkets.

The Star responded by claiming it considered the media reports to be "misleading".

"The Star is concerned by a number of assertions within the media reports that it considers misleading. There are constraints on publicly discussing specific individuals," the group said in a statement released to the ASX today.

"We will take the appropriate steps to address all allegations with relevant state and federal regulators and authorities, including Mr Adam Bell SC who is undertaking a regular review of The Star Sydney in accordance with the Casino Control Act 1992 (NSW)."

"The Star operates in a heavily regulated industry. We are subject to thorough and ongoing regulatory oversight including compliance checks and reviews across the company’s operations in NSW and Queensland."

The review was announced by the Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority (ILGA) in mid-September, with Adam Bell SC - who was the lead senior counsel assisting the Bergin Inquiry into Crown Resorts’ Barangaroo casino - expected to deliver his findings by the end of March 2022.

"The Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority (ILGA) has recently established an inquiry into The Star to determine how effectively it is complying with its statutory obligations and whether it remains suitable to hold a casino licence," a NSW Government spokesperson said in a statement today, noting regular reviews of casinos are required under legislation.

"NSW has been nation-leading when targeting criminal activity at casinos, having established the Bergin Inquiry into Crown Resorts’ Barangaroo casino in 2019," the spokesperson said.

"The Government is committed to implementing all of the recommendations of the Bergin Inquiry, including the creation of a new Casino Commission."

In its statement today, The Star highlighted its support for the recommendations of the Bergin Inquiry.

The NSW Government spokesperson said Bell has extensive powers to interview whoever he chooses, to take evidence and to inform himself on any matter and in such manner as he considers appropriate.

"The inquiry will closely examine the casino’s compliance with its obligations under relevant legislation and in particular, its obligation to minimise the risk of money laundering by patrons and to eliminate the infiltration of the casino by organised crime groups," the spokesperson said.

"The inquiry will consider The Star’s past dealings with SunCity and other junket operators."

The government invites members of the public and organisations to make written submissions to the inquiry, which will be accepted until 4pm on 30 November 2021.

"If ILGA receives any recommendation from Mr Bell that any public hearings are required, it will give such a recommendation appropriate consideration," the spokesperson said.

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