Crown could face Senate tampering inquiry

The lure of the pokies. Photo AAP/Mick Tsikas

The lure of the pokies. Photo AAP/Mick Tsikas

Pressure is mounting for a federal parliamentary inquiry into Crown Casino after whistleblowers accused it of tampering with poker machines to increase gambling losses.

But the coalition government says the proper forum for any investigation is at the state level.

Anti-pokie campaigner and senator Nick Xenophon on Thursday joined a chorus of upper house voices calling for an inquiry, arguing the whistleblowers had lost confidence in state regulators.

The push come after independent lower house MP Andrew Wilkie used parliamentary privilege on Wednesday to make public the allegations levelled at the James Packer-owned gaming giant’s Melbourne precinct.

Mr Wilkie tabled video evidence of three unnamed men alleging Crown illegally tampered with machines to increase gambling losses, and ignored drug use and covered up domestic violence.

Further claims relate to money laundering.

“My concern is that the whistleblowers have lost confidence in the regulatory authorities,” Senator Xenophon told Nine Network on Thursday.

“I don’t have that much confidence in the gambling [Victorian] regulator because some of the allegations from the whistleblowers is that the gambling regulator didn’t adequately investigate this.

“The next step must be that they must be put under the scrutiny of an independent inquiry.”

Government frontbencher Mitch Fifield said any inquiry should fall under state jurisdiction, adding casino regulation was not a federal responsibility.

“However, it’s up to the Senate if it chooses to have an inquiry into these areas,” he told ABC radio.

Crown on Wednesday in a statement to the stock exchange rejected the allegations and challenged Mr Wilkie to take his information to the authorities.

“Crown Resorts rejects the allegations made today under parliamentary privilege … concerning the improper manipulation of poker machines and other illegal or improper conduct at Crown Casino in Melbourne,” it said.

Federal Greens leader Richard Di Natale said the minor party would work with Nick Xenophon Team on a motion for a Senate inquiry into how casinos are regulated in Australia.

Victorian gaming minister Marlene Kairouz met with the state Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation on Wednesday and ordered it to conduct a full investigation.

“We take any claims of this type extremely seriously and they will be thoroughly investigated,” a VCGLR spokeswoman said in a statement.

Crown shares closed 4.3 per cent on on Wednesday, after slumping six per cent during the day.

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