Crown Casino faces new allegations of improper conduct involving poker machines
Mr Wilkie alleges the picks were used to jam into poker machines to allow them to play continuously. (ABC News: Margaret Burin)
A former Crown patron has produced what she says is more evidence of improper conduct at the Melbourne casino, including a Crown-branded “pick” allegedly used to jam poker machine buttons in place.
Federal independent MP Andrew Wilkie today handed the fresh evidence of alleged poker machine manipulation at Crown Casino to the Victorian gambling regulator.
The handing over of the special picks supports testimony provided by three Crown staffers last year who accused the gaming giant of providing the plastic cards to punters to allow them to play machines quickly.
Crown Casino has previously been accused by whistleblowers of deliberately removing betting options on dozens of its machines in breach of gambling laws.
The state’s regulator, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR), is currently considering penalties for Crown.
Mr Wilkie has now provided the VCGLR with copies of punter loyalty cards from Crown and specially designed picks allegedly handed out by Crown to high-level punters.
The picks are allegedly used to jam poker machine buttons in place to allow continuous play — something that is against gaming rules.
“If these allegations are found to be accurate, then I would be firmly of the view that the people who hold the licence are not fit and proper people to hold that licence and it should be taken off them,” Mr Wilkie said.
“This is potentially very hard and indisputable evidence.”
Mr Wilkie said the former punter was given multiple loyalty cards so she could play several machines at once. (ABC News: Jane Cowan)
Illegal to modify machines
Mr Wilkie was providing the evidence on behalf of a former punter who wishes to remain anonymous.
He said the woman would lose up to $30,000 on every trip to the Casino, and that Crown gave her multiple loyalty cards, which allowed her to play several pokies at once.
“Now these are very serious allegations,” Mr Wilkie said.
“Obviously if they’re true, Crown Casino will have some very serious matters to answer, some very serious charges to answer because it is a crime in Victoria to illegally modify poker machines.
“It is a crime in Victoria to provide a patron with some sort of device to allow the machine to continuously play.”
Charles Livingstone, a gambling and public health expert at Monash University, said the alleged use of a device to hold down buttons for continuous play was “probably the most dangerous practice you could encourage in a gambling venue”.
“What it does is it turns a machine, where you are supposed to make a decision every time you push the button, into a fully automatic device … and [it] will consume literally hundreds of dollars in a very short space of time,” Dr Livingstone said.
He said, if the allegations were true, there was “no way that this can be described as responsible behaviour”.
“Crown prides itself on its responsibility. This is as irresponsible as it gets.”
Earlier this year, the VCGLR said it had assessed all the information provided by the original whistleblowers and that it was only pursuing further action against Crown over the blanking of buttons.
The VCGLR is currently reviewing Crown’s licence as part of the regular review process.
Crown has been approached for comment.
Mr Wilkie said the licence should not be renewed until all the allegations have been dealt with.
A spokesman for Victorian Gaming Minister Marlene Kairouz said as proceedings were ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment.
The VCGLR said it was considering the information provided by Mr Wilkie.