Crown Melbourne, home of the Aussie Millions, has been fined $225,000 after gaming regulators found evidence that it had altered 17 slot machines.
News of the fine comes six months after Australian MP Andrew Wilkie submitted evidence to the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR).
As well as accusations that slot machines had been manipulated, ex-Crown employees told the politician that violent incidents went unreported and anti-money laundering procedures weren’t always followed.
Outrage then an Explanation
In response to the accusations, Crown Executive Chairman John Alexander penned an open letter criticizing Wilkie and his motives.
“I am angered and disappointed by the outrageous allegations that have been levelled at us by Andrew Wilkie. If he believes he has evidence of wrongdoing, he should stop the political games, step out of the parliament and make his claims without privilege,” Alexander wrote in October 2017.
Crown executives later admitted that some machines had been altered for a brief period. Addressing the allegations, the casino’s legal team stated that three betting options had been removed from 17 slots as part of a three-week trial.
Following up the information provided, the state regulator concluded that the casino was in breach of its licensing conditions.
“While Crown Melbourne’s position throughout this process was that the gaming machine trial did not require the prior approval of the commission, Crown Melbourne respects the commission’s decision, which brings this process to a close,” reads a statement issued by the company on April 27.
Punishment Doesn’t Fit the Crime
For Wilkie and others, the punishment was insufficient on all levels. The independent MP for Denison, Australia, released a statement on his website dismissing Crown’s version of events.
As well as pointing to other potential infractions, he claims former employees are still providing him with evidence of wrongdoing.
Echoing Wilkie’s dissatisfaction, Monash University’s Dr. Charles Livingstone told local newspaper The Age that removing one machine would have been costlier for the casino.
“It’s nothing. It’s a flea bite, if that. I don’t think it will have much of a deterrent effect,” Livingstone told The Age on April 27.
Despite the backlash, both Crown Melbourne and the VCGLR consider the issue resolved. For the former, bringing the matter to a close in the manner it has will be seen as a positive.
Following legal troubles in China and financial issues with its international ventures, Crown Resorts has been forced to restructure its operations in recent months. As well as selling its interests in Macau and Las Vegas, the company has moved to focus on the Australian market.
In the midst of these changes, former chairman and director James Packer stepped down from his positions citing mental health issues. Given the current state of flux, a more unfavorable ruling from the VCGLR could have cost the company dearly.
For now, however, it will keep its gaming license and look to rebuild ahead of its flagship poker event in February 2019, the Aussie Millions.