Australian-listed casino operator Crown Resorts Ltd. has been slapped with a AUD300,000 (US$226,608) fine over charges of tampering with certain electronic gaming machines on the casino floor.
On Friday, The Guardian reported that the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) found Crown Resorts guilty of violating the Gambling Regulation Act of 2003 when the casino operator “adjusted” its gaming machines.
The fine was the heftiest punishment ever imposed on the Australian operator, which insisted during the investigation that it had done nothing wrong. VCGLR, however, ruled that the Melbourne-based company needed to secure permission from them before altering its machines.
“Crown’s failure to obtain approval means it has contravened the Gambling Regulation Act 2003,” the VCGLR said, according to the news outlet. “This is the largest fine the commission has issued to Crown and reflects the seriousness with which it considers the matter.”
VCGLR said its probe was predicated on the testimonies of whistleblowers that Australian Independent MP Andrew Wilkie presented to the House of Representatives’ federation chamber in October 2017. The whistleblowers claimed that casino managers ordered Crown Melbourne staff to tamper with the machines, including disabling lower bet provisions and modifying buttons to allow prohibited autoplay, both of which could increase gambling losses.
They made other allegations against Crown, such as tolerating the misuse of identity documents that helped certain high-value customers avoid the scrutiny of financial watchdogs Austrac and allowing certain customers to smoke marijuana on the premises. As a result, VCGLR commenced with the disciplinary action proceedings related “to the use of blanking of buttons on certain electronic gaming machines on the casino floor.”
In handing its decision, the state regulator considered the seriousness of the contravention, Crown’s past compliance history, its level of co-operation and the importance of deterring similar behavior.
VCGLR also tasked Crown with providing them with an updated compliance framework to prevent it from happening again. The casino operator was given six months to comply.
“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,” Crown said in a statement.
If there’s one person who isn’t happy about the outcome of the case, that is Wilkie.
The Australian MP has been roasting Crown Resorts for some time now. Just recently, he submitted to the state regulator and police some Crown-branded ‘picks’ that were allegedly used by a former high-roller to jam poker machine buttons in order for gamblers to have uninterrupted games.
For Wilkie, slapping Crown with a record fine wasn’t enough given the gravity of the offense.
“I expect the commission and the police to diligently probe these matters. It would be completely unacceptable to the community if they take the casino’s explanations at face value or continue to hand out slap-on-the-wrist fines,” he said.