Gambling giant receives biggest ever fine

Crown Resorts has been fined $300,000 for tampering with poker machines to increase revenue.

The fine is the largest levied by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation against the gambling giant.

The casino company is controlled by James Packer, who in December sold more than $100 million worth of Crown shares to keep his stake at around 47 per cent, and last month stepped off the company’s board citing mental health issues.

Over a period of three-and-a-half weeks during March and April 2017, certain buttons were hidden on 17 gaming machines at Crown Melbourne so that only minimum and maximum betting options were available.

The trial was designed to increase Crown’s revenue, although according to the Commission, it didn’t alter the amount of money players received from the machines.

Altering gaming machines at the casino requires the regulator’s permission.

“While Crown Melbourne’s position throughout this process was that the gaming machine trial did not require the prior approval of the Commission, Crown Melbourne respects the Commission’s decision, which brings this process to a close,” the company said in a statement.

The commission said it took into account the seriousness of the contravention, Crown’s past compliance history, its level of co-operation and the importance of deterring similar behaviour.

It has requested that Crown provide an updated compliance framework within six months and explain how it will prevent a similar matter happening again.

Independent federal MP Andrew Wilkie, a staunch critic of poker machines, welcomed the outcome but said the fine was not enough.

“This is a very serious offence for which Crown should stand condemned,” he told The Guardian.

 “However, I do not accept Crown’s explanation that this was only a trial, because there is an abundance of evidence that the practice has been more widespread.”

It is not the first time Crown has been called to account for its practices.

Last year, Chinese authorities arrested 19 Crown employees in Shanghai for allegedly chasing high roller gamblers. Crown sold its interests in joint-venture casinos in Macau soon after and was fined $1.67 million by the Chinese government.

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