Crown has rejected allegations of wrongdoing and illegal conduct, including that it deliberately tampered with poker machines, after an independent MP revealed the explosive testimony of three whistleblowers on Wednesday.
Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie used parliamentary privilege to air a number of damning allegations against the James Packer-owned casino, which Victorian authorities confirmed they would investigate on Wednesday.
But Crown denied any wrongdoing, telling the Australian Stock Exchange: “Crown Resorts Limited rejects the allegations made today under parliamentary privilege by Mr Andrew Wilkie MP … concerning the improper manipulation of poker machines and other illegal or improper conduct at Crown Casino in Melbourne.
“Crown calls on Mr Wilkie to immediately provide to the relevant authorities all information relating to the matters alleged.”
The testimony tabled by Mr Wilkie, which included a 30-minute recorded interview, alleged that staff were forced to tamper with new machines, including “shaving down” buttons on gaming machines to allow illegal continuous play, and that the company regularly reset machines’ memory to reduce returns to players.
Further claims included that staff were told use different player ID cards when processing transactions over $10,000, to avoid reporting to AUSTRAC, the national anti-money laundering agency.
It was also alleged management did not report domestic violence incidents by players visiting from overseas.
Victoria’s Special Minister of State Gavin Jennings said allegations needed to be “vigorously tested”.
“We want to make sure that we leave no stone unturned in relation to what evidence and information may be available to us,” he said.
Victoria’s gaming minister, Marlene Kairouz will meet the Victorian for Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) to discuss the claims on Wednesday.
A spokeswoman for the VCGLR confirmed the claims would be investigated.
“We take any claims of this type extremely seriously and they will be thoroughly investigated,” she said.
Mr Wilkie said the whistleblowers had alleged the regulator had done nothing to intervene and had been complicit in a cover-up in some cases.
The VCGLR spokeswoman said: “The VCGLR maintains constant oversight of the Melbourne Casino and has taken active steps over the past 12 months to improve our level of supervision of the Casino. This includes establishing a specialist dedicated Casino team.”
Outside Parliament, Mr Wilkie said that if the allegations were true, it could mean “systemic” and “widespread” misconduct at Crown facilities across the country.
The testimony was recorded as part of “Pokie-Leaks”, a campaign launched by Mr Wilkie and fellow independent Nick Xenophon to expose illicit practices in the industry.
Mr Wilkie called for a parliamentary inquiry into the entire gambling industry and Senator Xenophon backed those calls, saying the allegations were “shocking”.
“If these claims are found to be true, it also points to a massive failure of the regulatory framework,” he said.
The Greens and independent Senator Jacqui Lambie also backed a senate inquiry.
Responding to initial reports of the allegations, Federal Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said gaming was “solely in the remit” of the Victorian state government.
The regulator said a review of the casino operator, which is required every five years, was currently underway.
It does not have jurisdiction over criminal matters such as money laundering and organised crime.
In 2014, Melbourne’s Crown Casino had its license extended by 17 years to 2050.
When announced at the time, it was understood the government would reap $910 million from the deal.
The allegations also included that:
- Punters soiled themselves while betting, and Crown provided them with clean clothes so they could continue gambling
- Management did not report a suicide attempt that took place in front of staff. Instead the customer was escorted off the premises after he received treatment.