Crown Casino is under investigation for fiddling with buttons on gambling machines

James Packer and John Alexander, the Executive Chairman of Crown Resorts. (Photo by Scott Barbour / Getty Images)
  • Crown is under investigation for a potential breach of Victoria’s Gambling Regulation Act.
  • Billionaire shareholder James Packer announced plans to sell down part of his stake in the company.

Billionaire James Packer’s Crown Resorts Limited has revealed it’s being investigated for a potential breach of Victoria’s Gambling Regulation Act.

The announcement was made to the ASX this afternoon, in conjunction with news that Packer plans to sell down some of his stake in Crown.

The investigation relates to a trial run by Crown on a small number of its poker machines between March and April 2017, involving the use of “blanking buttons” which removes the number of options available to the user of the machine.

The trial was carried out on 17 out of a total of 2,628 poker machines at Crown’s Melbourne casino.

The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation subsequently advised Crown that it had not been informed about the plan, and therefore the trial run had been implemented without the Commission’s approval.

Crown took the view that it did not require Commission approval, and has lodged a detailed submission of its position, which is currently under consideration by the Commission.

The Commission has the authority to issue a fine, suspend or revoke the casino’s licence if it’s found to be in breach of the Act.

Crown also revealed plans for a share buyback of up to $390 million, pending approval by the board.

As part of the buyback process, major shareholder James Packer will sell some shares in Crown through his private company, Consolidated Press Holdings (CPH). The move will allow Packer to keep his total stake in the company at around 47% of shares on issue.

According to the AFR, the transaction will see Packer’s CPH offload more than $100 million worth of shares in Crown.

At current prices, Packer’s share of the company is worth around $4.35 billion. In August last year, Packer announced that he would rejoin the board and take a more hands-on approach in managing the company.

Shares in Crown closed 2.31% lower at $13.09.

The AFR has more.