THE STAR FACES ACCUSATIONS OF MIS-REPORTING OF VIOLENCE

In Trade Restriction by Clyde Mooney

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The Star has been accused of under-reporting and mis-reporting violent incidents in the casino in a damning ABC report based on a leaked Liquor & Gaming report.

On Monday night ABC’s PM broadcast spoke of an in-depth review of security reports and footage at The Star. It noted 111 violent incidents between March and August this year, and even more seriously, that police were summoned to just 36 of these, and that only 24 were reported to casino executives.

The program said the document suggested the true nature of incidents was being hidden, and altercations were being reported as “forced removals for behaviour” to regulators. It was reported that Liquor & Gaming NSW (L&GNSW) had given The Star until last Friday (28 October) to respond to the report.

A statement by The Star said it “rejects the report as it contains inaccurate information” and “misunderstanding of the incident reporting process”.

A spokesman said the entity “has had no chance to discuss the content of the report” with the regulators, and that its providing “confidential internal reports” was proof it hid nothing.

NSW Department of Justice Deputy Secretary Liquor, Gaming & Emergency Management, Paul Newson, has responded to the ABC’s story by stating the leaked document was a preliminary internal report, prepared as a guide to ongoing discussions with the casino.

“As the regulator of the casino, Liquor & Gaming NSW has conducted an initial review of reporting arrangements for violent incidents.

“It’s worth noting our preliminary report examined internal reporting practices within the casino and incidents at the casino that did not result in police attendance. This is a separate issue to incidents being reported to police.

“It’s imprudent and premature to draw conclusions at this early stage until a more informed and complete understanding is achieved.”

The deputy secretary notes it is the regulator’s mandate to engage with the operators of all licensed venues in NSW, maintaining a “candid and robust dialogue” while ensuring operators are “effectively discharging their responsibilities to minimise the risk of harm” involving alcohol and associated violence.

L&GNSW today confirmed to PubTIC it will be carefully reviewing the casino’s response to the report, which it expects “shouldn’t be too long”.

One concern is that any misreporting by the casino will put into question BOCSAR (Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research) analysis on incidents at The Star, which are based on police reporting.

Casinos are not directly subject to the Liquor Act (2007), except as provisioned. One such provision is in regards to Incident Registers, which are required by all licensed venues selling or supplying liquor after midnight at least once a week regularly.

The Casino Control Regulation 2009 – Schedule 6 (#56), says “any incident involving violence or antisocial behaviour” and “any incident of which the licensee is aware that involves violence or antisocial behaviour” occurring in the immediate vicinity must be reported.

This makes it clear the management and security are required to correctly report the occurrence of any violence, not just serious incidents, calling into question the selective reporting provided to The Star’s executive.

But a potentially greater concern is the under-reporting of incidents, particularly those that qualify as a ‘serious indictable offence’ – such as assault causing actual bodily harm, where blood is spilt or physical harm is sustained. Concealing such an offence is punishable with two years’ imprisonment.

The ABC reported that one of the incidents outlined in the leaked report where police were not called was a brawl in the nightclub involving five men, where a security guard allegedly head-butted a patron, and a man’s leg was broken.

The report suggested a condition of crime scene preservation be imposed on The Star’s licence, forcing it to report all incidents or face stiff penalties.

While L&GNSW is yet to come to any conclusions, yesterday a spokesman for Deputy Premier and Hospitality Minister Troy Grant told Fairfax Government would consider “any and all recommendations” by the regulator, which have apparently been requested “as a matter of priority”.

Many in the hospitality industry have questioned the justification of allowing a large-format venue such as The Star to operate under different regulatory conditions to venues in the CBD.

Beyond the anti-competitive nature of the situation, the concentration of displaced patrons is a proven recipe for problems.

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