A Victoria state court has fined leading slots operator Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group (ALH) A$600,000 ($386,000) for its “wilful” failure to install pre-commitment technology on hundreds of slot machines.
The Melbourne Magistrates' Court on Thursday (August 24) issued a fine of A$550,000 to the subsidiary of listed company Endeavour Group and ordered it to pay A$50,000 in legal costs of the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC), which brought the prosecution.
However, the court reduced the fine from a potential A$1.35m because the company quickly pleaded guilty to 62 charges of failing to minimise gambling harm and cooperated with the VGCCC investigation, which started in 2021.
The court found that the nation’s largest operator of slots and other electronic gaming machines (EGMs) operated 220 EGMs at 62 of its 77 venues in Victoria without YourPlay, a mandatory pre-commitment system, the VGCCC said in a statement on Friday.
The court also heard that the machines lacked YourPlay functionality for as long as five weeks in the offending period.
“This outcome demonstrates the VGCCC’s commitment to pursuing those operators who opportunistically or deliberately contravene their obligations to protect the community from gambling harm,” VGCCC chief executive Annette Kimmitt said.
“Gambling providers need to pay close attention to their obligations because the consequences for getting it wrong can be significant.”
A spokesperson for Endeavour Group said in a media release that the company “acknowledged our shortcomings on this serious matter and have taken steps to seek to improve our compliance management”.
“We will continue to work constructively with the VGCCC,” it said.
VGCCC spokesperson Reema Rattan told VIXIO GamblingCompliance on Wednesday (August 30) that the court only delivered an oral judgment because "in Victoria, the Magistrates' Court does not [always] give written reasons for decisions".
The prosecution confirms the Victorian regulator as one of Australia’s most aggressive litigants against lawbreaking gaming operators since a political storm over regulatory instability forced the scuttling of its predecessor and the VGCCC’s creation in mid-2022.
Earlier in August, the VGCCC charged Australian operator BlueBet with 43 counts of illegal roadside advertising that amounted to a potential fine of just under A$1m. Separately that month, the regulator banned betting on under-19 sports competitions and any player under 18.
The VGCCC has also taken a hard line on casino operator Crown Resorts, issuing a A$20m fine in June over improper tax deduction claims, a A$30m fine in April over improper bank cheque practices, and a A$120m fine the previous November for failing to prevent aberrant gambling behaviour and failing to follow regulator instructions to prevent slot machine tampering.
ALH, under its previous owner Woolworths, was fined in neighbouring New South Wales (NSW) state in July 2020 for plying slots customers with alcohol to encourage gambling behaviour.
The NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority’s then chair, Philip Crawford, told the Sydney Morning Herald that the company showed “absolutely no contrition” for its “systemic failures” in duty of care.