The largest casino in Australia – Crown Melbourne – has suffered a monetary penalty for making modifications to some of its poker machines in order to limit betting options, which would result in players generating larger losses.
The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR), which is the competent regulatory body to act in such cases, imposed a fine amounting to AU$300,000 to Crown Melbourne, after the operator was proven to have tampered with some of its pokies. According to anti-gambling campaigners, the penalty is considered to be the biggest of its kind ever imposed by Australian regulatory authorities, with its amount corresponding to the seriousness of the violations.
The investigation findings showed that the gambling-floor employees of Crown Melbourne have been instructed to use a method called “button blanking”, which is considered a criminal activity under existing laws in the state. The VCGLR revealed that the casino had used the afore-mentioned method to cover up on some of the pokies’ buttons, with the investigation findings showing that button blanking had been used on a total of 17 poker machines during a trial programme held in 2017.
Due to the fact that so-called “blanking plates” had been used on some of the machines’ buttons, players were given only minimum and maximum betting options.
Modifications on Pokies Made as a Trial, Says Crown
This is not the first time when Crown Resorts has been hit by allegations of misconduct and irresponsible behaviour in terms of its customers. A number of whistleblowers have given statements to parliament accusing the casino operator for tampering with its Crown Melbourne poker machines and breaching legislation.
The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation issued a statement, saying that the ratio of returns to players had not been changed in any way due to the trial, and that Crown Melbourne had not breached laws intentionally. Still, the regulator explained that the AU$300,000 would make the casino be more careful whenever it decides to make any modification to pokies without an initial approval from the regulators.
As Casino Guardian already reported, Crown initially denied that any changes had been made to the machines, before at last admitting that some of the pokies offered at it flagship casino in Melbourne have actually been tampered with during a three-week period. The company explained that it respects the decision made by the competent gambling regulatory body, although that it believed that the gaming machine trial carried out had not require any prior approval of the Commission.
The independent Member of Parliament Andrew Wilkie commented on the regulator’s decision to impose a financial penalty on the operator, calling the violations made by Crown “a very serious offence”. He further explained that he did not accept the company’s explanation that the modifications were made only as a trial and reminded that according to evidence, the practice had actually been quite widespread.