Crown Resorts Fined AU$300,000 for Slots Tampering

Posted on: April 27, 2018, 02:00h. 

Last updated on: April 27, 2018, 08:59h.

Australia’s Crown Resorts has been dealt the biggest fine in its 25-year history after it was found to have practised “button blanking” on 17 of its slot machines at its flagship Melbourne casino.

Crown Resorts fined
: The VCGLR ruled that while Crown’s slots tampering had broken gaming laws, it was not part of a deliberate policy of casino management but a temporary trial organized by a small group of staff who didn’t realize they needed regulatory permission. (Image: Crown Resorts)

The regulator for the Australian state of Victoria, VCGLR, fined the company AU$300,000 ($270,000) for the infraction and ordered it to draft an updated compliance framework within the next six months to prevent future breaches.

Crown was found to have used blanking plates to hide and restrict betting options on the slots – or pokies, as they are known in Australia – meaning that only two out of five possible betting options were available.

Breaking the Law

“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 VCGLR, and that Crown’s failure to obtain approval means it has contravened the Gambling Regulation Act 2003,” said the regulator.

However, the VCGLR found the tampering had been conducted as part of a trial and was not a deliberately deceptive management policy. It had been initiated “by a small group of Crown staff” who did not believe they needed regulatory approval to make the changes.

It further noted that “Crown acted quickly to cease the trial following a complaint and before the matter was raised with the VCGLR.”

Anonymous Whistleblowers

The VCGLR began its investigation last year after anti-gambling politician Andrew Wilkie told federal parliament that he had been contacted by three anonymous whistleblowers who were former technicians at the Crown Casino Melbourne.

As well as button-blocking, the whistleblowers alleged Crown “shaved down” betting buttons on slots so customers could jam them in and gamble non-stop. They also claimed the casino flouted its anti-money laundering responsibilities and turned a blind eye to drug use at the property. The VCGLR said it had found no evidence of these additional claims.

Crown said it this week it stood by its conviction that the trial did not require regulatory approval, but said it respected the VCGLR’s decision.

But for some, the fine was not nearly enough.

“A damp feather would be a fairly significant penalty in comparison to this fine in my opinion,” Monash University Public Health lecturer Dr Charles Livingstone told ABC Radio Melbourne on Friday. “I suppose the regulator thinks that by suggesting a $300,000 fine, that that will make people think that it’s a big deal. It’s not a big deal. That’s just small change to these people.”