Crown Melbourne Plastic Picks Banned

Andrew Wilkie criticized Victorian officials for taking a year to ban the plastic picks.

The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) banned at the Crown Casino in Melbourne. The Crown Melbourne plastic picks are a controversial topic ever since a YouTube video exposed the practice. Until recently, the Melbourne casino handed out such picks to real money pokies players.

When the VCGLR announced the ban, its spokesperson said, “Following the investigation, the VCGLR has determined that the distribution and use of button picks may increase the risk of gambling-related harm. As such, [they] should not be permitted.”

Bettors jam the Crown Melbourne plastic picks into the pokies, because it allows continuous play without the need for pushing buttons.

In May 2018, an anonymous YouTube user posted a video showing how the plastic picks work. The poster claimed to be a croupier at Crown Melboure, while the video clearly depicted the casino gaming space.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie led a long campaign to expose the plastic pick policy. When Wilkie spoke to Australia’s news media, he showed that the picks bear the Crown Resorts logo.

Crown Melbourne Plastic Picks Banned

One gambling researcher claimed the devices led to an uptick in problem gambling. Charles Livingstone, a Monash University researcher, said, “The money that you would go through would be astronomically increased.”

Livingstone said that using the auto-play feature is a sign of problem gambling. Most modern pokies have an auto-play option. Punters prefer the Crown Melbourne plastic picks, because they allows faster auto-play. Picks also have no limitations on the number of spins.

Livingstone said punters he spoke with said Crown Melbourne pushed the use of the picks. He added, “I’ve heard of one whistleblower. She had 20 [picks] she’d been given over a period of time at the casino by staff. [That’s] encouraging people to undertake an activity which is extremely dangerous.”

Andrew Wilkie Criticizes Victoria’s Regulators

Despite the reversal of the policy, Andrew Wilkie remained livid with the VCGLR’s reaction. The Tasmanian MP said, “Not only did the VCGLR take months to come to this conclusion when the evidence was right in front of them the whole time.”

Wilkie said, “There has been no fines, no jail time – in fact, no punitive action whatsoever. Instead, Crown has just received a polite talking to and a ‘don’t do it again.'”

Blanking Buttons in 2017

This is not the first confrontation between Crown Melbourne and Andrew Wilkie. In 2017, the MP claimed Crown removed buttons from its pokies to force punters to make higher bets. Crown denied the allegations it removed buttons from its poker machines. It is a practice called “blanking buttons”.

Despite the denial, the VCGLR last year fined Crown $300,000 for removing buttons from 20 poker machines. Crown told shareholders it had blanked buttons on only 17 of 2,628 pokies.

In a letter to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), Victorian regulators said it had crossed signals with Crown. The report said, “The commission’s view is that the trial involved varying a gaming machine type and certain games.” 

The regulators added that Crown claimed it was engaging in a trial. While VCGLR claimed it should have approved the trial first, it bought the excuse. Therefore, regulators added, “Crown Melbourne’s position is that the trial did not require prior approval.”

Based on that contention, the VCGLR said the controversy was based on a mix-up. Most importantly, it determined, “Therefore, there has been no contravention of the GRA [Gambling Regulation Act].”