Crown Casino faces possible licence revocation for alleged pokies tampering

The Victorian gambling watchdog might strip Crown Casino of its gambling licence over allegations that it tampered with its poker machines

The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation has commenced disciplinary proceedings against Crown over the use of “blanking buttons” that allegedly restricted gaming options on its machines. 

“The commission is currently assessing information provided by Crown as part of these proceedings and will assess this in determining whether there are grounds for disciplinary action,” the commission said. 

Disciplinary action includes cancellation, suspension or variation of Crown’s casino licence. Crown could also be fined or get a letter of censure.

The investigation follows allegations made in parliament last year by Federal MP Andrew Wilkie.

The independent MP tabled allegations, made by three whistleblowers who identified themselves as former staff of the company’s Melbourne casino and whose identities were disguised through image pixelation and voice altering. 

The whistleblowers alleged some Crown pokies were adjusted so that buttons could remain pressed down to continuously generate bets at its Melbourne casino. This was contrary to Victorian gaming laws.

They also alleged staff were instructed to use different player ID cards when processing transactions above A$10,000. This would avoid reporting those allegations to intelligence agency Austrac. 

Other allegations included the casino turning a blind eye to domestic violence among “international” patrons and the use of marijuana and cocaine in the VIP rooms. 

The Commission’s investigation focuses on the use of “blanking buttons” over the three weeks between March and April 2017.

The Commission’s view is that this might be in breach of the Gambling Regulation Act and that any variation to the machine required its approval.

In its statement to the market, Crown denied it had broken the gambling law. 

“Crown Melbourne’s position is that the trial did not require prior approval, and therefore there has been no contravention of the GRA,” Crown said.

“Crown Melbourne has recently provided a detailed submission of its position to the Commission, which Crown Melbourne understands the Commission is currently considering.” 

Mr Wilkie said the commission’s inquiry vindicated the allegations he had raised in parliament.

“Clearly the Commission’s concern makes a mockery of Crown’s outright rejection of these allegations when I raised them in October,” Mr Wilkie said.

“The casino obviously has a case to answer about the blanking of buttons and I’m sure that the truth will come out when the Commission finalises its enquiries.

“Crown’s continuing rejection of any suggestion of wrongdoing is now at odds with no less than the Victorian gambling regulator. Both parties are telling different stories, and clearly only one can be right.”

An award winning author and journalist, commentator, lecturer, and speaker, Leon is a freelance business journalist who covers a range of areas including politics, strategy, globalization, leadership and all the big trends ahead. His main skill is summing up all the news that’s around. For the last 30 years, his main focus has been on management issues. He also produces two podcasts for RMIT University, Talking Business and Talking Technology. Leon has worked for Fairfax, News Limited, AAP and the Herald and Weekly Times.

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