Australia's Crown slams 'outrageous' machine tampering claims made by lawmaker

Crown Casino signs displayed at their casino in Melbourne.
Crown Casino signs displayed at their casino in Melbourne.PHOTO: AFP

MELBOURNE (AFP) - Gambling giant Crown has strongly refuted allegations by an Australian politician of machine tampering and serious misconduct at one of its flagship casinos as "outrageous and unfounded".

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie last week used parliamentary privilege, which grants him legal immunity, to make the explosive claims that Crown Casino in Melbourne engaged in "illegal machine tampering" and "software manipulation".

Citing whistleblower claims, he added that the company's key gaming house also allegedly avoided scrutiny from a financial regulator by "tolerating and even encouraging the misuse of identity documents".

But executive chairman John Alexander told the Australian-listed firm's annual general meeting in Melbourne on Thursday that Crown "emphatically" rejects the allegations.

"I am angered and disappointed by the outrageous and unfounded allegations levelled at us by Mr Wilkie, which unfairly smeared Crown by asserting that we have acted improperly in relation to our gaming machines and operations," he said.

"Mr Wilkie's inferences and commentary are deeply offensive to Crown, our board of directors and our employees."

Alexander added that Crown took compliance with the financial intelligence agency AUSTRAC "very seriously" and also does "not improperly manipulate our gaming machines".

Wilkie has called for a parliamentary probe into the allegations and Alexander said the company would cooperate if any inquiries were launched.

The claims came a month after the start of a landmark trial against Australian billionaire James Packer's Crown alleging players are misled or deceived about their chances of winning.

The Federal Court case was brought by lawyers Maurice Blackburn on behalf of gambling addict Shonica Guy, who suffered significant losses playing what are known in Australia as poker machines.

Gambling addiction is a major problem in Australia. Advocates for reform estimate that people lose around A$12 billion (S$12.6 billion) a year - with losses spiralling since the first machines were built in 1953.