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Star manager denies ‘misleading’ regulator

Star casino
Star Entertainment's outgoing chairman John O'Neill will give evidence at the NSW gaming inquiry. Photo: AAP
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A senior casino manager has denied deliberately trying to mislead the NSW gambling regulator about the use of a controversial debit card at The Star Sydney.

Graeme Stevens, group compliance manager at Star Entertainment, resumed evidence on Friday at a royal commission-style inquiry into whether the gaming giant’s Sydney casino should keep its licence.

The NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority is probing whether The Star Sydney has been infiltrated by criminal activity such as money laundering, and if its casino licence should be stripped following highly critical media reports.

Mr Stevens defended his actions at the casino in 2013 and 2014, rejecting a suggestion from counsel assisting, Naomi Sharp SC, that he “deliberately set out to mislead the regulator about the use of the CUP (China Union Pay) card at the Star”.

“I disagree,” he said.

He also rejected trying to mislead the regulator by failing to disclose a casino “workaround” in relation to the CUP card at any time in 2013 or 2014, saying he “did not deliberately choose not to disclose anything to them”.

Ms Sharp put to the witness that he had “absolutely no idea” when a standard operating procedure for the cage operation at the casino, which referred to the workaround, was put to the state’s gaming regulator.

“I don’t know whether that was put to the regulator,” Mr Stevens said.

The inquiry had previously been told how China Union Pay – a Chinese financial services company – prohibited gambling transactions, but that Star could disguise wagering as hotel accommodation charges.

Around $900 million was transacted on the CUP cards until terminals inside Star Entertainment casinos were disabled in 2020.

Mr Stevens has previously told the probe that he knew for several years the cards were being used to purchase chips for gambling at the casino, but says the first he heard of that being prohibited by CUP was at the start of the inquiry.

The public hearings were sparked by media reports accusing Star Entertainment of enabling suspected money laundering, organised crime, fraud and foreign interference at its gaming facilities, including The Star Sydney.

The inquiry continues.