Australia’s The Star casino has been put into question as it partnered with a major shareholder that allegedly has ties with several notorious gangsters in Hong Kong and Macau, according to an investigation conducted by ABC News, the news arm of Australia’s national broadcaster.
Current public hearings are examining how Queensland approved the key partner of The Star Entertainment Group’s Queensland casino operations despite being aware of the large Hong Kong-based group.
Chow Tai Fook was endorsed as a fit and proper partner for the casino by authorities in the northeastern state of Queensland in 2015.
The ABC revealed that the family business empire behind Chow Tai Fook had business partners in Macau casinos that were named by the US government as organised crime figures.
According to the media outlet’s investigations, Chow Tai Fook and associated companies have a “long history of association with organised crime figures and people blacklisted by gambling regulators around the world.”
One of these companies is linked with the notorious Macau gangster, Wan Kuok Koi, also known as “Broken Tooth” – who is sanctioned by the US government.
Meanwhile, Chow Tai Fook, a 25% shareholder in the AUD2.6 billion The Star casino that is being developed at Queen’s Wharf in Brisbane, will earn commissions from The Star for every VIP gambler it brings to the casino when it opens next year.
The conglomerate also owns 50% of the surrounding apartment towers, set to be completed next year.
ABC Investigations noted that the late Henry Cheng, owner of the conglomerate, even had corporate vehicles and remained a partner in a Vietnam casino that was founded by former junket mogul Alvin Chau – notwithstanding his arrest on 286 criminal charges in November 2021.
Despite the state’s laws that prohibit business associations with anyone of ill repute or undesirable financial sources, the government seems to have allowed it.
In an inquiry held in April this year, it was heard that The Star is continuing its partnership with the troubled Suncity despite a 2019 Hong Kong report that Alvin Chau had “very unsavory business associations” linked to the drug trade, money laundering and organized crime.
Meanwhile, the company’s chequered history includes a role in a failed Australian casino bid with discredited gambling tycoon Stanley Ho as well as interests in his companies, which have been blacklisted in New South Wales, the report stated.
“We have to have clean owners and clean operators if we’re going to have clean casinos,” Chris Sidoti, a former chairman of the NSW’s independent casino regulator, was cited as saying in the report.