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Whistleblowers claim Crown Casino tampered with pokies

National

Crown Casino has been accused of deliberately tampering with poker machines to increase gamblers’ losses, with MP Andrew Wilkie telling federal parliament the allegations suggest a “broader pattern of misbehaviour” in the pokies industry.

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Damning video evidence from former employee whistleblowers was tabled in the House by Wilkie today accusing the casino of misconduct, including turning a blind eye to drug use and domestic violence.

The Independent MP said under parliamentary privilege that while the allegations focused on Crown in Melbourne, they suggested a “broader pattern of misbehaviour” in the poker machine industry.

The anonymous whistleblowers allege lower betting options were disabled on machines and buttons modified to allow autoplay – which is banned.

“Moreover, there’s software manipulation to increase gambler losses even further – in particular on weekends when the number of naive first-time and casual users is obviously much greater,” Wilkie told the lower house Federation Chamber.

The Tasmanian MP said the former staff alleged the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation had done nothing to stop the “this shocking criminal misconduct” and in some cases was “complicit in covering it up”.

The three whistleblowers also allege Crown allowed the use of illicit drugs at the casino, covered up domestic violence and was disinterested in staff who gambled at the venue.

On top of that, they claim the casino avoids scrutiny by the money movement watchdog Austrac of people involved in transactions over $10,000 by tolerating and “even encouraging” the misuse of identity documents.

“If these allegations are true then Crown would be facilitating money laundering for any number of nefarious reasons like tax fraud, drug running, and even terrorism,” Wilkie said.

The MP called on the Victorian and federal governments to investigate.

“Many laws have possibly been broken and the truth will not be uncovered without a parliamentary inquiry, as well as investigations by law enforcement and regulatory agencies.”

Speaking later to reporters, Wilkie described some of the allegations unrelated to poker machines as “quite chilling”.

The MP refused to reveal the former employees’ level of seniority in the company, but said they were very nervous “men”.

A former whistleblower himself, Wilkie was reluctant to encourage them to go beyond their video testimony and speak to police.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, who’s responsible for online betting, said the states were responsible for regulating poker machines.

“If there are allegations then it’s appropriate for the relevant law enforcement authorities to investigate those,” he told Sky News.

“Parliament is a forum where colleagues can make a proposition.”

Labor leader Bill Shorten hasn’t seen the allegations but said they sounded very serious.

“There are gambling regulators in Victoria, and no doubt they need to investigate,” he told reporters in Canberra.

-AAP

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