Wilkie says regulator dismissed Crown poker machine tampering allegations | Australia news
A whistleblower who alleged serious misconduct at Crown Casino had their allegations dismissed by Victoria’s gambling regulator because the person wanted to remain anonymous, independent MP Andrew Wilkie has said.
The Victorian government ordered the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) to investigate last year after Wilkie used parliament to air allegations of misconduct, including that casino staff had provided Crown-branded picks. Similar in appearance to a guitar plectrum, picks are used to jam down the machine’s buttons, allowing patrons to play continuously without any human input.
But in a complaint to the regulator on 20 June, the Denison MP wrote that the regulator had dismissed the testimony of two whistleblowers, who he said “fear for their personal safety”.
Wilkie wrote that one informant had his “concerns over the use of picks at Crown dismissed by the inspector primarily because the whistleblower wished to give information anonymously”.
“To my mind, this is unfathomable,” he wrote.
“It is firmly my view that we agreed your office would take information my office provided – confidentially and anonymously if that is what an informant wanted – and then investigate it. However it is apparent that is not VCGLR’s practice.”
The other whistleblower who alleged the use of Crown-branded picks also felt their allegations had been dismissed, Wilkie wrote, because “she says the investigator told her he had not been asked to focus on this issue”.
In April, Crown was hit with a $300,000 fine for “blanking” out betting options on poker machines, meaning only minimum and maximum betting options were available. The trial on 17 gaming machines was conducted without approval, the regulator said at the time.
Separately, the Victorian government is currently conducting its five-yearly review of Crown’s operating licence.
Wilkie’s complaint further claims that after leaving a meeting with the regulator on 4 June, the whistleblower then went to Crown to collect more evidence. This showed staff helping patrons to tamper with the machines and altering their loyalty cards to allow continuous play, which is illegal.
On Wednesday morning, Wilkie released his letter to the regulator, as well as a statutory declaration from one of the whistleblowers outlining how they had been able to gather that evidence after leaving the meeting with the regulator on 4 June.
“I wrote to the VCGLR three weeks ago about loss of confidence in its ability to investigate alleged wrongdoings at Crown Casino,” Wilkie said in a statement.
“There’s been no response, so today I’m releasing this information because the public has a right to know how the Victorian state government and its gambling regulator operate.”
Guardian Australia has contacted the VCGLR and the Victorian gaming minister, Marlene Kairouz, for comment.
The regulator told the ABC: “The VCGLR is considering the concerns raised in the correspondence from Mr Wilkie and will respond in due course.”