A heavy penalty of AU$100 million (US$64 million), imposed on the Star Entertainment Group by the New South Wales (NSW) Independent Casino Commission, is headed toward responsible gaming programs and initiatives. This decision comes a year after the casino operator faced scrutiny for infringing numerous gaming legislations linked to money laundering and illicit activities.
Star Entertainment Group, operator of The Star Sydney, Australia’s second-largest casino, was deemed unfit by an inquiry a little over a year ago to hold a gaming license in light of its alleged corporate arrogance. Now, the Australian state government has devised a plan for the monetary proceeds received from the fine.
David Harris, the NSW Minister for Gaming and Racing, announced on Monday that the Star fine would be funneled into programs designed to mitigate the adverse effects of gambling over the next five years.
The initial allocation entails an installment of AU$21.7 million for the Office of Responsible Gaming to back harm reduction initiatives and reforms. An additional AU$10 million will provide increased counseling and support services.
Furthermore, AU$6.4 million will be earmarked for promoting self-exclusion programs within gaming pubs and clubs. Another AU$3.4 million will fund a cashless gaming trial by the Independent Casino Commission, aimed at curtailing money laundering and aiding the identification of problem gamblers in casinos and gaming venues.
Despite the substantial fine, Star Entertainment was permitted to keep its essential gaming licenses, contingent on stringent conditions such as intense supervision by state monitors and significant enhancements to its regulatory safeguards.
Australia’s thriving gaming industry generated nearly $18 billion last year – amounting to over $1,300 per adult. The country’s enduring fondness for slot machines, or “pokies”, is evident in their abundant presence in Star and Crown Resorts casinos, as well as numerous pubs and clubs. The NSW government holds high hopes for the impact of its AU$100 million investment in harm minimization programs.
With the alarming presence of gambling harm in the community, the NSW government aims to raise awareness of potential risks tied to all forms of gambling. According to Harris, significant help and support exist within NSW communities, demonstrating the government’s commitment to tackling this issue.
In a compelling move to subdue gambling harm, the government initiated a directive instructing clubs and pubs to eliminate all external gambling signs promoting pokies. The policy, effective since September 1, 2023, has witnessed over 99% compliance from venues. Moreover, pokies are now required to trim their cash input limit from AU$5,000 to AU$500.
Correspondingly, GambleAware Week, an annual campaign to heighten consciousness of gambling and its subsequent harm, was launched on Monday. Under the theme of “What’s Gambling Costing You?”, the initiative emphasizes the profound non-monetary costs of problem gambling such as lost time with loved ones, physical and mental health strains, and disruption of local communities. It encourages gamblers to introspect their gambling habits and reach out to acquaintances suspected of gambling excessively.