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Australian casino operator Star swings to loss on COVID shutdowns

Government probes over money laundering laws bring hefty one-off legal expenses

Visitors participate in a game at Sydney's Star Casino.   © Reuters

(Reuters) -- Australian casino operator Star Entertainment Group swung to an annual loss on Monday, hurt by long spells of COVID-19-led property and border closures and regulatory reviews.

Since last year, Star has been embroiled in a slew of government probes over possible breaches of anti-money laundering and counterterrorism laws at its casinos and, as a result, saw a major management overhaul.

The Brisbane-based company said it bore the brunt of one-off expenses of about 168 million Australian dollars ($115 million) this fiscal year, which included charges related to underpaid casino duty, impairment of goodwill and regulatory matters regarding legal defense.

The annual loss came even as Star, in an earlier trading update, said June quarter earnings witnessed a strong recovery over and above pre-COVID levels, with all its properties open on an unrestricted basis.

"COVID-19 related property shutdowns, operating restrictions and border closures as well as the regulatory reviews materially impacted earnings," the company said in a statement.

The country's second-biggest casino operator said its net loss after tax attributable was AU$198.6 million, compared with a profit of AU$57.9 million last year.

Star reported a 6% decrease in revenue from its Sydney operations, Australia's second-largest casino and Star's major money spinner. Total group revenue for the year was AU$1.53 billion, compared with AU$1.55 billion last year.

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