The Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) has issued Crown Resorts with two fines totalling a record AUS$120m (£67.5m/€77.5m/US$77.4m) for a series of failings in the Australian state.
In its ruling, the VGCCC said Crown failed its responsible service of gambling obligations over a number of years by consistently failing to intervene to prevent gambling harm at its Crown Melbourne land-based casino in Victoria.
Crown was found to have allowed customers to often gamble for long periods without a break, sometimes for more than 24 hours.
The VGCCC also said Crown failed to comply with a statutory direction by the regulator to take all reasonable steps to prevent patrons from using plastic picks and other devices to simulate ‘automatic play’ when gambling on certain electronic gaming machines, also known as ‘pokies’.
As such, the VGCCC issued two separate fines, the first totalling $100m and in reference to the operator’s misconduct and code breaches in terms of its failure to protect customers and adhere to responsible gambling requirements in the state.
The second fine of $20m was for the button picking, which the VGCCC said was in breach of laws in Victoria and was therefore classed as an illegal activity.
Crown accepted that disciplinary action should be taken and also the need for it to continue working on reforms to address these and other responsible service of gambling obligations.
The decision comes following a royal commission into Crown Melbourne. Headed up by Ray Finkelstein KC, the commission launched in February last year to investigate misconduct at the casino facility.
Crown was warned in September this year that it could face a fine of up to $100m for this activity, while in the same month, the state imposed spending limits on customers at the casino as part of broad to the 1991 Casino Control Act in Victoria and recommended by the commission.
“At the royal commission, Crown accepted the responsible service of gambling as both a legal obligation and a condition of its social licence to operate,” VGCCC chairperson Fran Thorn said. “For a long time, Crown failed in its legal and moral obligation to ensure it provided its gambling products and services in a manner which minimised potential harm to its patrons, their families, friends and communities.
“The record fines totalling $120m that we have imposed on Crown today will send a powerful message to Crown that the Commission will not tolerate misconduct that exposes our community to increased risks of gambling related harm.
“These were not isolated breaches. They were part of a pattern of extensive, sustained and systemic failures by Crown that spanned roughly 12 years.”
“We urge all gambling licence-holders to read this decision. This disciplinary action also sounds a warning to all in the Victorian gambling industry that we expect them to do everything they can to minimise the harmful impacts of gambling.
“The Commission will be resolute in pursuing our new requirement to regulate for harm minimisation, and the industry can expect further action from the Commission on this matter.”
Crown’s total fines in Victoria this year now stand at $200m, after the VGCCC in May also issued a fine of $80m in relation to Crown’s China Union Pay process. An investigation by the VGCCC found that between 2012 and 2016, Crown Melbourne illegally allowed patrons to use CUP credit or debit cards to access funds to gamble.
The VGCCC added that is considering further disciplinary proceedings against Crown related to the other findings of the royal commission, while Crown also faces inquiries in New South Wales and Western Australia.