Melbourne Crown Casino Hit With Record $300K Fine

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Melbourne Crown Casino Hit With Record $300K Fine

Crown Casino, established in 1994 has been hit with a A$300,000 (US$225,000) fine following allegations of poker machine tampering. The fine comes after an investigation that took place at Crown Casino revealed that 17 gaming machines had been tampered with over the period of just a single month.

The tampering involved the hiding of certain buttons on the slot machines, which meant that only minimum and maximum betting options were available, with other pay lines between the min/max limits not accessible to the players. Commenting on the transgression, Victoria’s gambling regulator, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor (VCGLR) released a statement:

“Crown’s failure to obtain approval means it has contravened the Gambling Regulation Act 2003… This is the largest fine the commission has issued to Crown and reflects the seriousness with which it considers the matter.”

Despite the seriousness of the breech and penalty issued, the fine has been criticized by some as being too weak and small-change to the casino. In fact, it is estimated that the fine amount is equal to less than 1% of Crown Casino’s annual revenue from such machines.

Crown Denies Involvement

Having initially denied the allegation of blanking-out buttons, Crown later admitted to the results of the investigation but denied involvement. The casino said that the decision to conduct a three-week trial involving 17 machines was not a decision that was made deliberately by the management, but the actions of a small number of staff, who did not believe that approval was required before tampering with machine operations.

Crown Resorts Limited, who own and operate Crown Casino, said that the tampering was part of a trial being conducted, and did not affect the RTP over the trial period. RTP is the return to player ratio percentage that machines will give back to players over a period of time, with most gaming machines having a RTP of above 90% as standard.

For its part, the VCGLR accepted that the trial had not affected the RTP to gamblers, and that the casino had not intentionally attempted to breach gaming laws.

Gambling Regulation Act

Any variation in the way in which the gaming machines work in the state usually requires direct approval from Victoria’s gambling regulator, and as the casino failed to get approval, it was therefore ruled to have broken the Gambling Regulation Act of 2003.

The act was put in place to promote responsible lawful gambling whilst minimizing problem gambling, and to allow citizens to enjoy regulated casino activities within the state, including Melbourne. Two of the key-points of the act is to ensure gaming machines are conducted honestly, and that the equipment is free from exploitation or tampering.

In addition to the fine, Crown Casino has also been forced to provide framework of compliance within 6 months to detail how it plans to prevent a similar situation happening in the future.

Further Investigations

The investigation in to gaming machine tampering came about when whistleblowers from Crown Casino revealed the illegal and morally questionable activities. It is anticipated that more evidence of unapproved tampering may come to light and it is believed that whistleblowers are continuing to come forward. Commenting upon the situation, MP Andrew Wilkie, who is politician and independent federal member for Denison commented:

“This is a very serious offense for which Crown should stand condemned… However 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… 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”.

Crown’s Gaming Machines

There are currently around 3500 gaming machines (poker machines, fruit machines, slot machines, pokies) available to casino users ranging from different stakes as low as 1 cent to 5 dollars. The higher wagering machines are located in the VIP area of Crown. Software providers to Crown Casino include; IGT, WMS Gaming, Aristocrat and AGT (Ainsworth Gaming Technology).

IGT, or International Game Technology PLC is one of the largest software providers of the gambling industry in the world. Last year, IGT became the very first gambling software provider to receive a certification for Responsible Gambling from the Global Gambling Guidance Group (G4), with the group’s accreditations for online and offline casinos, lottery providers along with software companies. G4 prides itself on fair and honest gaming and part of this certification was the implementation of problem gambling monitoring tools within its software.

VCGLR Monitoring Operations

The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor (VCGLR) continues to regularly monitor the operations of the Melbourne Crown Casino, and the commission has offices located at the site resort of Crown. In the past the establishment has also been fined on a number of occasions for minor breaches of the Casino Control Act 1991, which ensures that honest gaming takes place within casinos, and that establishments stay free from any criminal activity.

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