Regulator Quietly Bans Plastic Picks at Melbourne’s Crown Casino

Plastic picks have been banned at a Melbourne casino.
The use of plastic picks is thought to increase the risk of gambling-related harm.

30-second summary:

  • Victoria’s regulator has banned the use of plastic picks
  • Crown Casino has not been fined by the state regulator
  • Rules in Victoria state that gamblers must press a button with each bet placed

Crown Casino in Melbourne has been prohibited from issuing plastic picks to gamblers, which aid continuous play on poker machines.

Picks are not allowed

According to a report from ABC News, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) banned the casino from issuing plastic picks three weeks ago. The report noted that the plastic picks – similar to guitar picks – enable continuous play on poker machines, thus increasing the risk of gambling-related problems.

The commission said: “Following the investigation, the VCGLR has determined that the distribution and use of button picks may increase the risk of gambling-related harm and, as such, should not be permitted.”

According to rules in the state of Victoria, gamblers are required to press a button each time they make a bet. This takes less than three seconds and is designed to lower the risk of harm from gambling.

The move by the regulator follows an investigation after a whistleblower posted a video on YouTube allegedly showing a pick in action on a poker machine.

Serious misconduct

Last year, it was reported that the VCGLR was in the firing line after it failed to investigate the alleged misconduct involving the plastic picks at Crown Casino.

At the time, it was noted that the picks in question were being jammed into the play button on a gambling machine, which enabled players to play without the need to press a button. However, according to the report, even though a Crown Casino employee had posted a video on YouTube of the pick in action, the Victorian regulator reportedly failed to investigate.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie said last July that it was shocking that the regulator would not accept the information from whistleblowers. He said: “To my mind this is unfathomable. Police and regulators often take information from anonymous sources for investigation — in fact, Crime Stoppers’ campaigning makes a virtue of this.”

According to this recent report from ABC News, the regulator did not issue any fines to Crown Casino. This was in stark contrast to the fine the VCGLR levied at the casino last April amounting to A$300,000 (£168,000; $222,000) for an unrelated breach.

The Crown Casino has also faced allegations that it tampered with poker machines by removing betting buttons from 20 of them. It is also believed that the casino has regularly reset the machines’ memories in order to reduce the amount of returns to players.

Such actions have, ultimately, led to questions over whether the casino is fit to hold a license.

Second-highest gambling loss

In October, reports suggested that Victorians lost AU$246.2m (£136.3m; $176.8m) on gambling machines last August. One of the reports indicated that this was the second-highest monthly loss in Australia since records began in 1992.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform (AGR) stated this was down to the government’s decision to grant 20-year licenses for the next round of poker machines that come into operation in 2022. The AGR said in a report from July that this “condemns another generation to family violence, financial wreckage, family breakdown and emotional trauma caused by the poker machine industry.”