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NEWS 18 October 2017

Crown Resorts faces misconduct allegations by former employees

By Manuel Marti
Australia’s Crown Casino deliberately tampered with poker machines and ignored evidence of drug use and domestic violence, according to three ex-employees of the company.

The allegations, made anonymously by three former Crown staff in video evidence and tabled by independent MP Andrew Wilkie in the Federal Parliament, claim employees were told to illegally alter poker machines to encourage more bets as well as clearing their play history to reduce mandatory payouts.

One of the three commented: "We blanked out the centre buttons, so you could only use the lowest option and highest option.

“Even the people who did do the modifications of the machine, they did not approve of what they were doing themselves,” parliament heard.

"Sometimes machines were … the game was changed, or the moving of that machine was changed. And my belief is, the reason why they did that is because they could legally 'RAM-clear' the machine. The reality is, nearly all machines, 99 per cent of machines, will get 'RAM-cleared' within the five years.

"I do remember having a conversation with [the coordinator] telling him this is just not right. There are limits. And it was just told to me that this was a directive, and that it needed to be complied to."

The casino operator also told workers to turn a blind eye in domestic violence and drug use, whistle-blowers say.

Authorities will investigate the allegations as part of its current undergoing review of Crown’s gambling licence. "We take any claims of this type extremely seriously and they will be thoroughly investigated," said the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) in a written statement.

However, the former employees said the VCGLR had previously discovered machines were modified but didn’t take further action.

Crown Casino denies any wrongdoing and rejects "the allegations made today under parliamentary privilege (…) concerning the improper manipulation of poker machines and other illegal or improper conduct at Crown Casino in Melbourne".

In a statement issued to the Australian Stock Exchange, the largest casino in Australia called on Wilkie to provide all relevant information to the authorities. Because Willkie made the allegations under parliamentary privilege, he cannot be sued for defamation. Following this scandal, shares in Crown Resorts were down nearly 8%, at AUS$10.88, during mid-afternoon trading.

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