The Star’s shares placed in trading halt after media reports preempt review findings

The Star’s shares placed in trading halt after media reports preempt review findings

The Star Sydney (Photo via Facebook).

Shares in The Star Entertainment Group (ASX: SGR) have been placed in a trading halt pending release of the Bell report into the company’s suitability to hold a casino licence in NSW.

The company sought the halt following a report by The Australian newspaper today that claims the NSW Independent Liquor Gaming Authority (ILGA) review has found that The Star should lose its licence unless it overhauls its board and implements compliance reform.

The masthead reports the review, led by Adam Bell SC, had been presented to state officials earlier this month ahead of its public release, which is expected tomorrow. It states several NSW government officials were briefed on the contents of the report last week.

However, The Star today has told the ASX that it remains in the dark about any findings contained in the report.

“The Star is yet to receive a copy of the report, which has not been released publicly, and a trading halt is requested pending the public release of the report, which The Star understands will be made on Tuesday 13 September 2022,” says the company in a statement to the ASX.

“The trading halt is requested following media reports concerning the contents of the final report of the review of The Star Sydney undertaken by Mr Adam Bell SC in accordance with the Casino Control Act 1992 (NSW).

“The trading halt is necessary as otherwise trading in securities may take place in an uninformed market.”

If the report does find The Star unsuitable to hold a licence in NSW, the company will be in the same boat as Crown Resorts following the 2021 Bergin inquiry which found that the Melbourne-based gaming giant was unsuitable to hold a casino licence in Sydney. The finding delayed the opening of Crown’s $2 billion Barangaroo casino until August this year.

The Bell review earlier this year heard a litany of damning evidence from The Star’s senior executives that revealed failures of oversight within its VIP operations. The issues were exacerbated by a systemic cover up by senior management for allowing gamblers to use China Union Pay credit and debit cards to transfer tens of millions of dollars to gaming tables in contravention of the terms of use of the cards, including the creation of ‘sham’ invoices that purported to use those funds for hotel services.

Since the review, most of The Star’s board has resigned including former CEO Matt Bekier and chairman John O’Neill. Robbie Cooke has been named as the new CEO to take over later this year. The group has also announced a review of its operations to shore up its oversight of its obligations under regulations to prevent anti-money laundering activities.

ILGA has declined to comment on the media report, telling Business News Australia that is has 'nothing to confirm today'.

The Star’s shares last traded at $2.66.

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