Former Star CEO admits issues raised at inquiry suggest ‘cultural’ problem at casino

The former chief executive of Sydney’s Star casino has accepted that issues raised at an ongoing inquiry suggest a “significant, systemic and cultural” problem at the casino.

Matt Bekier faced his second day of questioning at the inquiry into Star Entertainment’s suitability to run its casino at Pyrmont less than two months after resigning amid allegations of money laundering, fraud and criminal infiltration at the casino.

The former CEO initially claimed he believed the “bad culture'” was limited to the business’ VIP wing which worked with junket operators, but under repeated questioning accepted it was likely more widespread.

He agreed senior executives in the Star’s legal, risk and finance departments had authorized misleading and deceptive communication with NAB regarding the source of gambling funds, and junior staff had felt they couldn’t challenge management.

Matt Bekier addresses a crowd
Matt Bekier told the inquiry the casino has a cultural problem.(PA: Dan Peled)

“It’s not just one or two people it seems to be a systemic problem involving a number of individuals,” inquiry head Adam Bell said.

“These are two of my most trusted senior executives, yes,” Mr Bekier said.

“So, the dimensions I’ve drawn to your attention are emblematic of a cultural problem are they not?” Mr Bell asked.

After a long pause, he replied, “they are.”

However, he claimed the board should not be blamed for Star’s culture and did not agree that members should consider their position.

“I don’t think the board had any visibility of this,” he said.

He also rejected Mr Bell’s suggestion that a board of a listed company is responsible for setting the culture, arguing members are only present 10 days a year.

“If I had been a NED (non-executive director) of Star Entertainment I would not accept responsibility for this behavior.”

However, he agreed with Mr Bell that if he had been a board member that was aware of the issues uncovered at the inquiry, he would have “appreciated immediately that there was a significant systemic and cultural problem”.

“Yes, you would have concluded that, yes,” he said.

It followed earlier admissions he suspected Star was likely in breach of bank rules prohibiting the use of China UnionPay cards for gambling but did not stop the transactions because he assumed it was ‘accepted industry practice.”

“I think that was the fundamental failing right at the beginning of this process, we accepted something that we knew was wrong from the very beginning,” Mr Bekier said.

Asked whether it ‘followed that he was very much a party to it,’ Mr Bekier agreed he ‘let that happen’.

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