WHISTLEBLOWERS have alleged Crown Casino has deliberately tampered with poker machines to increase gambling losses.
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has tabled the allegations of criminal conduct in federal Parliament today.
The video evidence from three former staff at the Victorian casino have also alleged it deliberately overlooked illegal drug use and domestic violence.
“Today very serious allegations have been levelled at the poker machine industry,” Mr Wilkie said.
“Although the allegations focus on Crown in Melbourne, they could also suggest a broader pattern of behaviour in the poker machine industry which would obviously have grave implications for people right around Australia, including in my electorate of Denison.”
“These allegations are obviously very serious. If Members and Senators, law enforcement and regulatory agencies, and the media, scrutinise the video record of the whistleblowers’ testimony, I’m sure they’ll agree that the claims warrant an immediate and strong response.”
“I call on the Federal and Victorian governments to ensure the allegations are investigated thoroughly. The truth will not be uncovered without a parliamentary inquiry, as well as investigations by law enforcement and regulatory agencies.”
Mr Wilkie tabled the allegations in the Federation Chamber this morning, in what is believed to be the first instance of video evidence being tabled in Parliament.
The interviews were recorded as part of Mr Wilkie’s PokieLeaks campaign, which he launched with South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon to “expose the dirty secrets” of the poker machine industry.
The video footage includes allegations that Crown Casino engaged in “illegal machine tampering”, including the disabling of lower bet options and modifying of buttons to allow prohibited continuous play, Mr Wilkie said.
“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,” he said.
Mr Wilkie said the whistleblowers had alleged the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation had done nothing to stop the “shocking criminal conduct”.
The whistleblowers also alleged that “in some cases” the commission was complicit in covering it up, he said.
“Regrettably, the alleged misconduct at Crown is not limited to poker machines,” Mr Wilkie said.
“The whistleblowers also allege that the Casino avoids AUSTRAC scrutiny of individuals involved in transactions of over $10,000 by sometimes tolerating or even encouraging the misuse of identity documents,” he said.
“If these allegations are true, then Crown would be facilitating money laundering practices for any number of nefarious reasons like tax fraud, drug running and even terrorism.
“Other examples of alleged misconduct at Crown include sanctioned use of illicit drugs at the casino, the practice of covering up domestic violence and management’s disinterest in staff flaunting the law prohibiting them gambling at the venue.”
Mr Wilkie said he had personally confirmed the identity of the whistleblowers, although it had been obscured in the footage.
He called for a parliamentary inquiry and a police investigation as “many laws have possibly been broken”.
Victorian Greens gambling spokesperson Colleen Hartland says Crown Casino’s pokie machines need to be immediately suspended from trade while an independent audit is undertaken, following allegations.
“These are serious offences and the state government needs to act,” Ms Hartland said.
“Crown cannot be allowed to operate pokie machines until an independent audit has been completed.
“We know Crown Casino donated to Dan Andrews before the last election, but he can’t let them get away with this,” she said.