Andrew Wilkie Brings New Tampering Charges on Crown Resorts
Crown Resorts, the number one Australian land-based casino operator, is under investigation for new poker machine tampering charges. Andrew Wilkie, a prominent anti-gambling politician, claims a high rollers were given “picks” that allowed them to play multiple pokies at once, thus increasing the impact of the VIP player’s gambling addiction and increasing Crown’s profits.
Victoria’s gambling regulator and local authorities are once again investigating allegations of tampering with poker machines at Melbourne’s Crown casino.
This is not the first time allegations against the casino have come forward. Poker machine tampering seems to be a repeating issue for the leading operator. Back in October of 2017, allegations were made against the operator, claiming it tampered with poker machines as well as avoided reporting of cash transactions.
How “Picks” Increase Problem Gambling
Hobart-based politician Andrew Wilkie showed journalists “picks” that were allegedly given to one of the casino’s former high-rollers. The woman, who was a former gambling addict, claimed that the picks (pictured above) were given to her so that she could play multiple machines at one time.
The picks that Wilkie showed sported the Crown casino logo on them. Crown employees allegedly placed these picks beside various poker machine buttons to keep players playing at a high risk.
Andrew Wilkie said what Crown did is a crime. The MP noted, “It is actually a crime in Victoria to illegally modify pokie machines … to provide a patron with some sort of device to allow the machine to continuously play.”
Anonymous Problem Gambler
The woman agreed to be interviewed by the regulator though she did not wish to be named. She claimed that she was also given multiple loyalty cards, so she could rack up points from various machines. The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation confirmed it had met with the prominent anti-gambling politician and would further look into the evidence he provided and the allegations that were made.
In his press conference, Andrew Wilkie said the Victorian regulators expressed shock at the new charges. He said, “It certainly raised a couple of eyebrows this morning at the VCGLR when I showed them the picks, when I showed them the multiple loyalty cards.”
“This is potentially very hard and indisputable evidence. If what this woman has told me is accurate, then she has lost an enormous amount of money and she has been unwittingly breaking the law.”
Victorian Police Informed of Pokie Picks
Andrew Wilkie mentioned that he reached out to Victoria Police Chief Commissioner, Graham Aston, regarding the allegations. Victoria’s police force confirmed that it had received the letter sent by Wilkie and that they would be assessing the matter “to determine whether a crime has occurred and whether it should be referred to (the regulator) “.
Earlier Allegations against Crown
In October 2017, Wilkie brought 3 former Crown Resorts employees to parliament to make allegations against Crown Melbourne. The three claimed Australia’s largest casino had been tampering with poker machines and avoiding reporting of cash transactions.
The allegations said that the casino manipulated machines to change the odds, instructed staff to modify buttons on the machines in order for small picks to be wedged in them. These small devices would allow people to gamble continuously, which is in breach of state regulations. Crown Melbourne also allegedly allowed people to use other customers’ identity cards to process cash transactions.
One of the employees was a poker machine technician at Crown Melbourne, while one other was a gaming room attendant.
Blanking Buttons to Increase Revenues
Still other allegations stated that the casino intentionally limited the gambling options on some of its poker machines by “blanking” buttons, making them unusable by patrons. In this case, the Victorian Gaming Commission found compelling evidence of the blocking.
After the Victoria Commission investigated the various charges, they rejected the majority of the claims against the casino. They did find evidence of the button-blocking.
The three whistleblowers claimed they had been instructed to remove three out of the five betting-line options on some of the casino’s pokies (slot machines), which forced bettors to increase their wagers.
Crowns Resorts Denies Charges
Crown Resorts has continued to deny all allegations against them regardless of the multiple claims. Crown released a statement which said, “The commission’s view is that the trial involved varying a gaming machine type and certain games in a manner that required the commission’s prior approval. Crown Melbourne has recently provided a detailed submission of its position to the commission, which Crown Melbourne understands the commission’s currently considering.”
Wilkie Criticizes Crown Melbourne Probe
Wilkie believed that the regulators findings made a joke of the Crown Resorts’ claims. He said of the earlier probe, “The casino obviously has a case to answer about the blanking of buttons, and I’m sure that the truth will come out when the commission finalizes its inquiries. Both parties are telling different stories, and clearly only one can be right.”
Though none of the allegations have been proven yet, Wilkie believes that if they do, Crowns Resorts should not be stripped of its casino license. It is more likely that a hefty fine will be the biggest punishment the casino will see.
Along with all of the allegations against Crown Resorts in the news, last month the company’s majority shareholder James Packer announced that he will be selling more than $100 million worth of Crown Resorts stock. That will bring his interests in the company down to around nearly 47 percent. James Packer originally checked himself into a mental health institution in the United States, but later checked himself out and moved to Argentina.