Crown Casino has been accused of tampering with gaming machines, in damning whistleblower testimony tabled in federal Parliament.
Among the allegations included in video evidence presented by independent MP Andrew Wilkie on Wednesday morning were claims that Crown turned a blind eye to illicit drug use and domestic violence.
The testimony from three former staff at the James Packer-owned casino alleged Crown forced staff to “shave down” buttons on gaming machines to allow illegal continuous play, Mr Wilkie said.
The practice of allowing a machine to spin without a user pressing a button for each spin is banned under Victorian regulations.
The staff alleged they were instructed to use tools to shave down buttons on new machines to create space for punters to wedge something in the button, so it could be held in place to keep the machine playing without additional presses.
Mr Wilkie tabled the allegations, including a 30-minute recorded interview with the three whistleblowers, in what is believed to be the first case of video evidence being tabled in Parliament.
According to the evidence, staff were also instructed to use different player ID cards when processing transactions over $10,000 to avoid reporting to Austrac, the country’s anti-money laundering agency.
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.
The New Daily contacted Crown Casino for comment and was told a formal statement would be released later Wednesday.
Mr Wilkie called for a parliament enquiry to look into the allegations.
“The challenge is now for the law enforcement and the regulatory agencies to conduct their own inquiries,” he told a news conference outside Parliament House.
Mr Wilkie said the three men approached him both directly and through his staff.
“They are understandably quite anxious about the risks that they are taking and they thought that the safest way to ventilate their concerns was to come to me in the first instance with the protection of the Parliament, to allow me to get the allegations out,” he said.
The explosive allegations come as the Victorian government conducts its five-yearly review of Crown Casino’s licence.
Victoria’s auditor-general in February warned that the compliance division of the Victorian Commission for Gaming “has not applied a level of focus on the casino that reflects its status and risk as the largest gaming venue in the state”.
The auditor-general’s report also said areas of risk, such as money laundering, were not getting sufficient attention.
The testimony also comes as Victorian woman Shonica Guy is suing Crown Casino and gaming machine manufacturer Aristocrat in a landmark Federal Court case alleging the machines are deceptively designed.
Ms Guy, who was addicted to gambling for 14 years, is alleging that the reels, symbols and other design features of Aristocrat’s Dolphin Treasure machine misrepresented the true chances of winning.
“For too long now we’ve been told that it’s our fault and we are the only ones to blame for pokies addiction,” she said.
“I want this case to show that the machines are misleading and the industry knows that their machines are addictive and they are designed to get us hooked.”
Ron Merkel QC, representing Ms Guy, told the court there was a “very close working relationship” between Crown and Aristocrat.
He said that more than 1000 of the 2600 poker machines on the floor of the Melbourne casino were made and designed by Aristocrat.
Ms Guy is arguing that the reels, symbols and other design features of Aristocrat’s Dolphin Treasure machine misrepresent the true chances of winning.
“This case isn’t just about me, I want this to stop happening to other people,” Ms Guy said last month when she announced the suit with law firm Maurice Blackburn.
“For too long now we’ve been told that it’s our fault and we are the only ones to blame for pokies addiction.”
Under the “Pokie-Leaks” campaign launched last year, Mr Wilkie, Mr Xenophon and Greens Senator Larissa Waters are using parliamentary privilege to protect whistleblowers who come to them with secret information about industry tactics, poker machine design and payments to politicians.
The campaign is being conducted with the support of the Alliance for Gambling Reform – a group of business people, academics and politicians who want greater restrictions on Australia’s multi-billion dollar gambling industry.