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VIP gamblers roll Sydney's The Star casino in 'freakish result'

For Sydney's The Star casino, it was a freakish result.

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But for six of Asia's high-roller gamblers, a golden run at the casino netted tens of millions of dollars in winnings.

With a total of $22 billion bet by VIPs at The Star in the last six months of 2015, even small changes in the amount they win can have a huge impact on a casino's bottom line.

The Star revealed on Tuesday that an unusual run of luck by just half a dozen gamblers in Sydney played havoc with its performance.

Playing their favoured game of baccarat, the high rollers bet up to $500,000 a hand, beating the house to win and stripping The Star of nearly $80 million in profit over a six month period.

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The Star models its VIP business on winning $1.43 from every $100 that is bet. But that 'theoretical' win rate of 1.43 per cent slumped to just 0.88 per cent in the first half of the 2016 financial year, meaning the casino only won 88c from every $100 bet.

The bad run of luck for The Star prompted one sharemarket analyst to question The Star's finance chief Chad Barton over whether the low win rate had led him to gnaw off his fingernails.

Chief executive of The Star Matt Bekier said he hopes it will prove a one-off.

"That was a freakish result," Mr Bekier said. "It was about six individuals who accounted for most of that loss. They were high rolling, big risk taking individuals who happened to have a lucky run here. They are all individuals who are well known to us - who have been coming here for many years - and normally we are ahead but this time they ended up ahead."

On Tuesday Mr Bekier also weighed into the ongoing debate about Sydney's lockout laws, arguing that its status as a tourist attraction warranted an exemption. "We make less than 3 per cent of our revenues from alcohol sales, so we are not benefiting from it," he said.

The Star is not the only Australian gambling operation to be hit hard by high-rolling gamblers in recent times.

Casino magnate James Packer, the majority owner of Crown Resorts, famously told shareholders in 2014 "the punters are killing us" after a lucky streak among VIP gamblers saw them take more money than expected off the gaming billionaire.

The Star builds a buffer into its VIP business to allow for the house to occasionally lose and it expects the high-rollers to come back for more.

"Well I hope they do [come back]," said Mr Bekier. "We're clearly a lucky casino for them. There's six very, very happy guests who we cannot wait to welcome back to our properties."

Mr Bekier said there was little to read into the pattern other than bad luck.

"We obviously do a lot of analysis on the play and the probability of that play. We've looked at it every which way - we looked at the distribution of bets, we looked at who, we understood the lifetime history of the players that won it - and it's just bad luck. And bad luck and good luck are not sustainable. So this will normalise."

Mr Barton dismissed speculation that a repeat of the low win rate could translate into a cashflow crisis for the casino operator.

"If we continue to have that low win rate over a period of time, the balance sheet can sustain it," he said. "Obviously our belief is it will return to more normalised rates over the medium term period."

Despite the VIP win rate blip, The Star delivered a 26 per cent increase in first-half normalised net profit to $142 million mostly driven by strong domestic growth.

With AAP

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