Crown Resorts has fought challenges from multiple fronts in the last 24 months that has forced the Australian casino operator to withdraw its presence from Asia, abandon its plans to build its first casino resort in Las Vegas and Japan; and deal with the possibility that it might end up losing its Crown Melbourne license.

The Case Against Crown Melbourne   

Crown Melbourne made the news in October 2017 after whistleblowers reached out to Canberra lawmaker Andrew Wilkie and went on record to state that Crown’s flagship casino was up to no good by engaging in practices that breached gaming regulators and lured gamblers to spend more.

The whistleblowers were former employees of Crown Melbourne who put together a 30 minute video which was played before Australian legislators. The main takeaway from the video was that Crown Melbourne was deliberately tampering their pokie machines in order to manipulate naive gamblers and get them to spend more. There were also other allegations including Crown Melbourne staff encouraging gamblers to drink heavily and then play as they tend to lose more.

All these allegations were denounced by Crown Melbourne but pressure from MP Wilkie forced the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) to launch an investigation. There remained a strong possibility that Crown Melbourne could have its license revoked for deliberately breaching gambling laws if found guilty.

VCGLR Does Not Interview Whistleblowers

The VCGLR has now finished its investigation and presented its findings in a report to the Daniel Andrews government for review. However, it appears that the VCGLR has compiled this report without interviewing the whistleblower. This was brought to the attention of Ross Kennedy, who is the head of the VCGLR by MP Wilkie who accused the regulator of purposefully raising barriers so that a full and detailed investigation would not be completed.

Officials from the VCGLR have not interviewed the whistleblower and take his feedback into consideration because he wanted to remain anonymous and protect his identity. MP Wilkie does not find enough justification in this reason for skipping the whistleblowers testimony and penned a fiery letter to Kennedy.

The letter from MP Wilkie said “Police and regulators often take information from anonymous sources for investigation. It is firmly my view that we agreed your office would take information my office provided — confidentially and anonymously if that is what the informant wanted — and then investigate it.”

MP Wilkie Wants Transparency From VCGLR

The letter to Mr. Kennedy was sent over two weeks ago and there hasn’t been any response from the VCGLR so far and that hasn’t gone down well with Andrew Wilkie. The MP called on the Victorian regulator to be more transparent with its dealings and to inform the public of how it went about processing things with regards to the Crown Melbourne allegations.

Wilkie wants the regulator to come out in the open and disclose if Crown Melbourne had manipulated pokie machines as alleged and if so what penalty would the regulator impose on the casino. Crown Melbourne was hit with a $300,000 penalty in April 2018 for blanking out selective buttons on pokie machines that once again misled gamblers and got them to play faster and spend quicker.

MP Wilkie remains concerned that the investigation by the VCGLR might not be thorough enough to find irregularities that have been highlighted by the whistleblowers. There is also concern that things might be swept under the carpet Crown Resorts has some powerful individuals on its board of directors.

Gaming Minister Unfazed By MP Wilkie’s Allegations           

MP Wilkie has been after Crown Resorts for a number of months and his efforts have resulted in an investigation but it is highly unlikely that it will result in a Crown Melbourne license suspension. Marlene Kairouz who is the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation said that she will not respond to MP Wilkie’s allegations.

Kairouz said that if there was anyone who claimed to more information or any evidence regarding Crown Melbourne’s alleged malpractices, they should get in touch with the commission directly. There is no timeline as of now as to when a decision will be made by the Victorian government on the VCGLR report of Crown Melbourne.

 

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