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Plastic picks banned at Melbourne’s Crown Casino

Fri, Mar 29, 10:43am by Staff Writer

Melbourne’s Crown Casino has been banned from handing out special plastic picks used by punters to bypass poker machine rules because their use increase harm from gambling, the industry’s Victoria regulator has said.

The ABC is reporting that whistleblowers contacted them in 2017 to alert them to the fact that the casino was handing out specially branded plastic picks, which punters would jam into poker machine buttons.

The picks were used to allow continuous machine play.

Victorian rules require gamblers to press a button for each bet, which takes less than three seconds. This was intended to be a harm minimisation measure.

Three weeks ago, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation made public the fact that Crown would be banned from handing out the picks.

No fines were issued.

The commission said that, “following the investigation, the VCGLR has determined that the distribution and use of button picks may increase the risk of gambling-related harm and, as such, should not be permitted.”

The casino is also required to prevent the use of button picks.

The whistleblowers’ revelations forced a probe after formal complaints from federal independent MP Andrew Wilkie to the commission, as well as outrage from gambling experts.

The Tasmanian anti-gambling MP called the response from the commission “pathetic”.

“Not only did the VCGLR take months to come to this conclusion when the evidence was right in front of them the whole time, but there has been no fines, no jail time – in fact no punitive action whatsoever,” he said.

“Instead Crown has just received a polite talking to and a ‘don’t do it again’.”

He said it “beggars belief” that the regulator was unaware of the use of picks.

Crown in the spotlight for responsible gambling practices

It is not the first time Crown has been embroiled in an issue with poker machines after it was fined for removing betting buttons from nearly 20 of its poker machines without approval.

The ABC reported that Crown was instructing staff to remove betting options from poker machines in a scheme known as blanking buttons.

Pokies have multiple betting options for each spin, including how big or small a stake a player wants to make.

Under the plan, certain options were removed which whistleblowers suspected was to increase punter losses by forcing them into making higher bets.

Crown was fined $300,000 by the gambling commission as a result of the breach.

In August 2018, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Crown Resorts is failing to adequately monitor and intervene in problem gambling.

The Herald reported that Melbourne’s only casino operator needed to make drastic improvement to its governance and management in order to meet its commitment to responsible gambling.

The regulator said in August that it was “not confident” that Crown had sufficient staffing to proactively intervene and offer assistance to gamblers at risk of harm, while its policy of online intervening after gamblers spent 16 or 24 hours continuously gambling was described as “very conservative” and not conducive to responsible gambling, the report said.

It also highlighted a need for improvements to Crown’s regulations around money laundering risks and its prevention of criminals and problem gamblers who were subject to “exclusion orders” from accessing the casino.

The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation confirmed that Crown had no moved to improve its board procedures in response to the regulator’s findings that it should set up a charter for directors, ensure board committee chairs were “properly qualified” and it develop “a risk appetite with appropriate monitoring” to improve the company’s institutional governance.


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