Crown Resorts Allowed to Keep Melbourne Casino License

Australian gambling operator Crown Resorts will keep the license for its Melbourne casino operation, following today’s publication of a review of the business by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR).

In its sixth review into Crown’s operations, the gambling regulator added 20 recommendations for improvements in certain areas, including institutional governance, the promotion of responsible gambling, and organizational approach to regulation. Following today’s publication of the VCGLR review, Crown said in a letter to the ASX that it accepts all recommendations made, has already begun working on eight of them, and will make sure to follow the remaining 12 in a timely manner.

The casino operator was urged to deploy data analytics to effectively detect and help customers with problem gambling behavior, following accusations that it had failed to respond properly to instances of family violence and self harm at its Melbourne casino.

The Victorian gambling regulator has also told Crown to ensure that its independent directors are fully engaged in the strategic oversight of its Melbourne operation and that “reporting and decision-making relationships” between boards and committees involved in the oversight of the Melbourne gambling venue are properly and fully documented.

Crown’s Melbourne casino landed in hot water after Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie tabled in the Parliament last fall whistleblower statements detailing multiple alleged violations made by the gambling business, including altering gaming machines in a manner that violated player rights.

Slot Machine Tampering

The alleged tampering with slot machines, locally popular as poker machines or pokies, was one of the main subjects of the VCGLR’s review. The regulatory body found that Crown indeed used the so-called blanking plates on 17 of its machines during a trial period last year. The plates left patrons with just minimum and maximum wagering options.

Mr. Wilkie argued in Parliament last fall that Crown adjusted the gaming machines in a manner that would return winnings worth less than the required 87% under Victorian regulations.

Crown has previously admitted to blanking buttons on several of the gaming machines located on its Melbourne casino floor, but pointed out that this was part of a trial program. The operator has also explained that it had not informed the regulator about the trial as it had thought it had not been required to.

Following a probe into the matter, the Victorian gambling commission said earlier this year that the trial did not change the ratio of returns to players, but fined Crown a record A$300,000 for failing to inform it about the alterations in its gaming machines. The fine was the largest one ever imposed to a gambling operator by the regulatory body.

In its review, the VCGLR dismissed a number of Mr. Wilkie’s allegations, including the ones related to the alleged slot machine tempering.

The commission also said today that it will continue its investigation into the 2016 arrests of Crown staff in China and whether the incident would require any regulatory action, as the operator had failed to present the necessary documentation on time.

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