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Crown fined A$300,000 over pokies tampering

The investigation into Crown Melbourne’s alleged tampering of pokies machines ended on Friday, with the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) issuing a A$300,000 (US$227,460) fine to the operator.

“This is the largest fine the commission has issued to Crown and reflects the seriousness with which it considers the matter,” said the VCGLR in a note on Friday.

Crown’s pokies machine tampering scandal first came to light in 2017 after former Crown employees alleged that they were instructed to make alterations to their pokies machines, including blanking of buttons, and shaving down of buttons that allowed for continuous, automatic play.

However, Crown at the time defended that the alterations were part of a trial on a select number of machines, which did not require any prior approval.

In a statement from VCGLR this week, the regulator said: “The Commission considers that the way in which Crown used blanking plates in the trial constitutes a variation to the gaming machines and therefore required approval by the VCLGR, and that Crown’s failure to obtain approval means it has contravened the Gambling Regulation Act 2003.”

In an ASX filing, Crown defended that “the contravention was not deliberate and that the Gaming Machine Trial did not impact the return to player ratio,” but accepted the punishment.  

“While Crown Melbourne’s position throughout this process was that the Gaming Machine Trial did not require prior approval of the Commission, Crown Melbourne respects the Commission’s decision, which brings this process to a close.”

Crown has advised to the Commision that it will be implementing a more robust compliance program and the Commission has requested to remain updated on this.

The findings were welcomed by Independent federal MP Andrew Wilkie, who was the one that took the casino employee’s claims to parliament last year, but he said the fine was not enough given the severity of the misconduct, according to a report from The Guardian.

“This is a very serious offence for which Crown should stand condemned,” he said.

“I do not accept Crown’s explanation that this was only a trial, because there is an abundance of evidence that the practice has been more widespread.”

Wilkie said other allegations that were raised are still unsolved, and hopes the commission can continue their investigations as more evidence comes to light.

“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

Asia Gaming Brief is a news and intelligence service providing up to date market information for worldwide executives on relevant gaming issues in Asia.

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