After being informed by the Bell report that it is unfit to hold the license, Star Entertainment Interim Chairman Ben Heap has released a battle cry of a Renewal Plan describing how the struggling operator might save its license for The Star Sydney.
In his words: This Report makes for difficult reading; we acknowledge its findings and recommendations and the gravity of the matters as set out in the Report. We also acknowledge the public criticism of our governance, behaviours and culture, including by the NSW Independent Casino Commission Chief Commissioner, Mr Philip Crawford. We have fallen short of expectations. The people of NSW placed their trust in us as the holder of a casino license, and we have not lived up to that trust. For that we offer a sincere and unreserved apology.”
“Over the coming days, we are working to respond to the notice from the NSW Independent Casino Commission as to why we should be able to continue to operate. We are taking stock of our existing programs, the changes made to date, and planned initiatives. We recognise the seriousness of the matters raised by Mr Bell and Mr Crawford and we are determined to address them and to do so with urgency.
I want to discuss with you our current top priorities with you in the interim. The Report makes it abundantly evident that we must drastically alter our culture. We require better responsibility, more effective government, and openness. At our core, we must be a place of work where team members feel free to voice their concerns, where we engage in open and sincere communication with our regulators and Independent Monitor, and where our leadership is both watchful and receptive to team members’ concerns. When there is a problem, we must not just question “Can we?,” but also “Should we?,” and move quickly. I acknowledge that we have occasionally acted haughtily and closed ourselves to criticism. In the future, it won’t be the case.
Our objective is to regain your confidence as well as that of the NSW Independent Casino Commission and all of our regulators. I am aware that our deeds, not our words, will determine how we are perceived. You have the assurance that I will do all in my power, as well as those of my colleagues directors and the senior management team, to make the necessary reforms.
Our Renewal Plan, which we are designing and will put into action, will serve as the organization’s integrated road map for bettering our governance, culture, and controls. In addition to addressing the concerns mentioned in the Report, we will look into and deal with their underlying causes. Our Renewal Plan is a multi-year plan in order to adequately address and integrate the fundamental changes required in all facets of our organization given the scope and depth of the challenges presented.
“We are developing and will implement a comprehensive remediation plan, which we refer to as our Renewal Plan, to serve as the company’s integrated roadmap for improving our governance, culture and controls,” Heap said.
“We will not only fix the issues raised in the Report but will examine and address their root causes. Given the extent and breadth of the issues raised, our Renewal Plan is a multi-year plan, to fully address and embed the fundamental changes required in all aspects of our business.
“Examples of actions we’ve taken to date include introducing stronger controls, enhancing our regulatory compliance functions and training, adding new members to our Board, rebuilding our senior leadership team, separating our Risk and Legal functions, hiring a new Chief Risk Officer, and voluntarily appointing an Independent Monitor to oversee our progress.
“We acknowledge there is much more to be done and we will do it working constructively and transparently with the NSW Independent Casino Commission, our other regulators, and our Independent Monitor,” he added.
Heap, who confirmed that Star is already working on its response to the Bell Report, stated that the organization needed to change its culture after it was discovered that it had intentionally used illegal methods to avoid regulatory oversight.
The illegal use of China UnionPay cards to fund gambling at The Star Sydney, Star’s dealings with Asian junket operator Suncity Group, and paying another junket operator based in Macau to conceal customer deposits with the Bank of China, Macau branch were some of the practices highlighted by the Bell Report.
“We need more transparency, more robust governance and greater accountability,” Mr. Heap said. “At its heart, we need to be a workplace where our team members feel free to raise concerns, where we have open and honest dialogue with our regulators and Independent Monitor, and where our leadership is both vigilant and listens when concerns are raised.
“We need to ask not only ‘Can we?’, but ‘Should we?’, and act swiftly where there is an issue. I accept that there have been times we’ve been arrogant and closed off to criticism. That will not be the case in the future.
“Our goal is to earn back your trust and the trust and confidence of the NSW Independent Casino Commission, and indeed all our regulators,” he added. “I recognise that we won’t by judged by our words, but by our actions. You have my commitment, and that of my fellow directors and senior management team, that we will do everything in our power to make the necessary improvements.”
Stronger controls, improved regulatory compliance functions and training, adding new Board members, rebuilding our senior leadership team, separating our risk and legal functions, hiring a new Chief Risk Officer, and voluntarily appointing an Independent Monitor to track our progress are a few examples of the actions we’ve taken so far.
“We acknowledge there is much more to be done and we will do it working constructively and transparently with the NSW Independent Casino Commission, our other regulators, and our Independent Monitor,” he concluded.