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Australia's Crown casino company gambling away its reputation

A lawmaker has accused Australian casino company Crown of rigging slot machines and concealing potential money laundering. Whistleblower accounts alleged the state regulator covered up criminal behavior.

Australian gambling powerhouse Crown is facing a raft of allegations, including slot machine tampering and avoiding money laundering scrutiny after whistleblower accounts were presented in parliament on Wednesday.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie submitted video evidence in Canberra from three former employees accusing Crown of rigging machines at its flagship Melbourne casino to work in its favor, including modifying buttons that allowed them to illegally auto-play.

The whistleblowers also claimed staff were encouraged to use different identity cards for transactions of more than 10,000 Australian dollars ($7,840, 6,665 euros) to avoid the scrutiny of Australia's money laundering watchdog.

"If these allegations are true, then Crown would be facilitating money laundering for any number of nefarious reasons, like tax fraud, drug running and even terrorism, Wilkie said under parliamentary privilege granting MPs legal immunity.

Crown Resorts, which is controlled by billionaire James Packer, has denied any wrongdoing.

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Shares down sharply

The whistleblower assertions extended to the Victorian Commission for Gaming and Liquor Regulation, the state gaming regulator, with the accounts saying the regulator knowingly turned a blind eye to machine tampering.

Shares in Crown, which operates casinos across Australia and the world, were down about 8 percent in afternoon trading.

Gambling addiction is a major problem in Australia. Advocates for reform estimate that people lose around 12 billion Australian dollars. Last month, gambling addict Shonica Guy launched a landmark case in the Federal Court against Crown and machine maker Aristocrat, alleging players were misled or deceived about their chances of winning.

hg/jd (AP, AFP)

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