Melbourne’s Crown Casino has been fined $300,000 by the Victorian gaming regulator for tampering with poker machines to enable only minimum and maximum bets.
The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation issued the fine after it found Crown had been using unauthorised “blanking plates” on 17 poker machines over a three-and-a-half-week period.
The blanking plates concealed play line options so that only minimum and maximum betting options were available.
(Crown Melbourne accepted the $300,000 fine. Image: AAP)
Under the Gambling Regulation Act 2003, casinos must obtain approval from the Commission for any action that constitutes a “variation” to gaming machines.
It’s the largest fine the Commission has ever issued to Crown.
In a statement made to the market this morning, Crown said it respects the decision but takes the position the tampering was not deliberate.
“The Commission accepted that the contravention was not deliberate and that the Gaming Machine Trial did not impact on the return to player ratio,” the statement read.
“While Crown Melbourne’s position throughout this process was that the Gaming Machine Trial did not require the prior approval of the Commission, Crown Melbourne respects the Commission’s decision, which brings this process to a close.”
The blanking plates were reportedly applied by a small group of Crown staff who did not believe approval was required and who failed to consult internally before conducting the trial.
(Independent MP Andrew Wilkie speaks to media outside Crown Casino Melbourne, Tuesday, April 24, 2018. Wilkie says a fifth whistleblower has contacted him with information about alleged illegal gaming practices. (AAP Image/Alex Murray))
The commission noted that once aware, Crown acted quickly to cease the trial and that the use of blanking plates did not impact Crown’s return-to-player ratio.
Tim Costello, director of the Alliance for Gambling Reform, said the fine shines a spotlight on the culture behind Australia’s biggest casinos.
“Australia has a long history of weak gambling regulation so this rare six-figure fine of a major gambling company clearly raises serious questions about the culture and operation at Australia’s biggest casino,” said Costello.
“What sort of accountability has been demonstrated over the culture at Crown Melbourne where a small group of rogue staff was prepared to illegally use blanking plates on poker machines?
“In this situation where Crown has suffered the biggest fine in its 25-year history, you shouldn’t just blame anonymous staff, but instead show some clear accountability amongst senior executives and the directors, most of whom have been personally selected by the controlling shareholder, James Packer.”
James Packer walked away from the Crown Resorts’ board in late March due to mental health issues.
(Independent MP Andrew Wilkie speaks to media outside Crown Casino Melbourne, Tuesday, April 24, 2018. (AAP Image/Alex Murray))
(By Stuart Marsh, finance.nine.com.au)