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Star chairman to conclude casino evidence

Outgoing Star Entertainment chairman John O’Neill is set to conclude his evidence at an inquiry into whether the company is fit to keep its Sydney casino licence.

The NSW gaming regulator probe is examining ASX-listed Star after allegations emerged it enabled suspected money laundering, organised crime, fraud and foreign interference at its venues, including its Sydney casino.

It has prompted a management clean-out, with chief executive Matt Bekier, chief financial officer Harry Theodore, chief casino officer Greg Hawkins, and chief legal and risk officer Paula Martin all leaving in recent months.

Mr O’Neill, who tendered his resignation as chairman last week, will face the inquiry for a third day on Wednesday, when he will likely conclude his evidence.

Some of his upcoming testimony is expected to be in closed session.

On Tuesday, Mr O’Neill at times choked back tears in his testimony, which focused on his conduct at the casino giant and claims of shortcomings at its venues.

The inquiry was told of “covert and overt” work undertaken by the company in a bid to stop the inquiry’s public hearings going ahead, as well as select shareholder briefings Mr O’Neil held following critical media reports in 2021.

Mr O’Neill has admitted Star was “underdone on risk and compliance” and should have been more alert to problems, saying “the buck stops with the board”.

He has attributed some of the problems to a major cost-cutting program at the company before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr O’Neill has conceded parts of Star’s business went badly wrong, especially its international rebate and VIP divisions involved with junkets, offshore bank accounts and a controversial Chinese debt card scheme.

He has testified that bad habits went undetected at Star as part of an industry-wide problem which requires “as much cleansing as possible”.

Star announced on Monday that Ben Heap will assume the role of interim chairman, while Geoff Hogg will become acting chief executive.

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