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Australian Lawmaker Claims Casino's Slots Illegally Altered 'To Increase Gambler Losses'

'Whistleblowers' Tell Parliament Of Alleged Criminal Misconduct

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Allegations out of Australia have put one of the world’s largest brick-and-mortar casino companies on the defensive.

On Wednesday, Australian Federal MP Andrew Wilkie, an independent, accused Crown Resorts of deliberately engaging in “software manipulation to increase gambler losses” on slot machines at its flagship casino. Crown Melbourne has some 2,600 gambling machines.

The allegations dropped the casino’s stock price by over eight percent early Wednesday. Crown Resorts is controlled by billionaire casino mogul James Packer. Late last year Packer ditched a plan to build a casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

Wilkie told Parliament that Crown also skirted anti-money laundering rules by misusing identification documents belonging to its customers.

The allegations came via video from three former Crown employees, which Wilkie presented. Their faces and voices were obscured to Parliament to protect their identities.

Crown denied the claims in a statement.

“Crown Resorts Limited rejects the allegations made today under parliamentary privilege by Mr Andrew Wilkie MP, as reported in the media, concerning the improper manipulation of poker machines and other illegal or improper conduct at Crown in Melbourne. Crown calls on Mr Wilkie to immediately provide to the relevant authorities all information relating to the matters alleged.”

Parliamentary privilege means that Wilkie, a long-time gambling opponent, can’t be sued for defamation. However, the following days and weeks could be messy, as Wilkie also accused the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation of essentially turning a blind eye to the casino giant’s “criminal misconduct.”

Wilkie said he was “horrified” to hear that regulators were “clearly complicit in covering it up.” Wiklie called his informants “whistleblowers.”

The allegations are sure to send shock waves through the entire Australian gambling industry. Australians spend more on gambling each year than people anywhere else in the world ($1,000 per person), with about 80 percent of citizens gambling in some form, also the highest rate in the world. The nation’s gambling market is worth about $18 billion a year.

How exactly were the slot machines allegedly rigged? Per a Bloomberg report:

The whistleblowers allege that some Crown slot machines, commonly referred to as poker machines in Australia, were adjusted to allow buttons to remain pressed down to continuously generate bets at its Melbourne casino, against Victorian state laws. The testimony also claims that some buttons were disabled to reduce the choice of consumers as to how much they bet, prompting the state’s casino regulator to order fixes […] The whistleblowers allege that members of the Victoria regulator knew of problems with Crown’s slot machines but took no disciplinary action except to ask that they be restored to their intended condition.