Former staff have levelled a range of sensational allegations against Crown Casino, which regulators say they will “thoroughly investigate”.
Crown denied any wrongdoing after independent MP Andrew Wilkie tabled a videotaped interview with the whistleblowers in Parliament.
Here are some of the allegations the three former Crown workers made against the gaming giant:
Crown told engineers to illegally disable buttons to encourage more bets
The men said a “red flag” went up when they were asked by management to alter the number of play options on poker machines.
“We blanked out the centre buttons, so you could only use the lowest option and highest option. So anything in between, the player was no longer given that option, to choose what they wanted to play. And once we heard that, we thought, this can’t be right. Even the people who did do the modifications of the machine, they did not approve of what they were doing themselves.”
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie tabled the former Crown workers’ allegations in Parliament. (ABC News: Matt Roberts)
Patrons were given plastic picks to jam buttons down for continuous spins
According to the whistleblowers’ interview, Crown gave out blue pieces of plastic, similar to guitar picks, that patrons used to jam buttons in place. This allowed continuous play on pokies — a practice banned in Victoria. When a new version of machine came out, the plastic pieces no longer fit in place, so workers were allegedly told to tamper with the buttons.
“The gap between the housing of the buttons and the gap wasn’t wide enough to be able to put that pick into. The pick was too wide to do that, so what they asked us to do was to get the cap of the button and to start shaving it down.
“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
Machines had their play history cleared to reduce mandatory payouts
The former workers said that poker machine wins were theoretically supposed to be random, but in reality they operated on an algorithm which was often designed to give out less money at the start of the machine’s programmed lifespan — which could be decades. If a machine’s Random Access Memory (RAM) was cleared, its lifespan would begin again.
“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.”
Some machines paid out well below compulsory rates
In the interview, the ex-workers said they would check machines in real time to see if they were following laws, which required machines to return 85 per cent of overall bets to punters.
“Whilst there were definitely, say, about 20 per cent of machines that were running over the minimum percentage that it was meant to, it was never that much over. There were machines that were vastly under. Like I’m talking, there was one machine that was running as low as 40 per cent and it had been operating for over a month.”
Staff were instructed to cover up family violence
Workers were allegedly encouraged to look past incidents of violence, particularly against women, so patrons did not have to be removed. Because the casino and hotels are a drawcard for many international visitors, the former staff said they were told to turn a blind eye to violence, because it was deemed “acceptable” in the visitors’ country of origin.
“[Hotel security] would go up there and say, ‘The wife was bleeding from the face, and so we had to separate them’. So what they’d do is … just separate them for the night.
“If you alert the police, the patron will either ask to leave, or they will not be allowed to gamble. So you remove the wife, so he can then come back to the gambling.”
Regulators did not check game functions on machines
It was claimed in the interview that many of the regulators sent to check machines lacked the knowledge to conduct proper testing, so it was easier for them to do nothing.
“They do very basic things. So they do their audits in regard to, do the buttons work? Does it take notes? Does it spit out tickets? And do all the lights on the tower lights work? That’s pretty much what they do.”
Some players soiled themselves while gambling
The men said it was not unusual for people to urinate or defecate themselves because they would not, or could not, leave the machine.
“[One man] was playing that much that he couldn’t get off the chair and he urinated himself. The manager took it upon themselves, they replaced the chair.
“We went to lost property … like, ‘Do we have any [clothes] in there that we can give him?'”
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