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ALH Group fined AU$480,000 for breaching Victoria operating rules

| By Robert Fletcher
The Victoria Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) has fined the Australian Leisure and Hospitality (ALH) Group AU$480,000 (£257,271/€296,494/US$326,469) for breaching rules over operating hours.
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VGCCC ruled eight ALH venues in Victoria ran electronic gaming machines (EGMs) outside permitted operating hours. The regulator said the facilities also failed to observe mandatory shutdown periods.

Venues flagged were the First and Last Hotel, Croxton Park Hotel, Albion Charles Hotel, Berwick Inn Taverner, The Millers Inn Hotel, Village Green Hotel, Elsternwick Hotel and Boundary Taverner.

Activity was detected outside permitted hours on 15 EGMs across venues from 15 February 2023 to 25 May 2023. Gaming venues are required to close for four hours after every 20 hours of gaming. They must also comply with the set hours they have nominated to operate EGMs. 

All venues, with the exception of Boundary Taverner, were found to have operated outside of trading hours and failed to observe mandatory shutdown periods between 15 February 2023 and 21 April 2023. This resulted in a $420,000 fine.

A further $60,000 fine was issued in relation to activities at the Boundary Taverner. Again, the venue operated EGMs out of hours and failed to observe shutdown period, but only on 25 May 2023.

“We expect all venue operators to provide gambling services responsibly and to observe the trading hours for their electronic gaming machines,” VGCCC CEO Annette Kimmitt said.

“Ensuring patrons take breaks and are not exposed to extended, continuous periods of play are critical to the responsible service of gambling. VGCCC will continue to monitor gaming machine operations to ensure our expectations are being met.”

Second major fine for ALH in 2023

ALH is the largest operator of EGMs in Victoria, with 4,690 machines across 76 venues. This marks the second headline fine the group has faced in 2023.

In August, ALH was handed a $550,000 fine for breaching state rules on gambling control.

An anonymous tip-off in late 2021 led to the VGCCC inspecting various ALH venues across Victoria. The regulator identified 220 machines running without YourPlay, the mandatory pre-commitment technology installed.

YourPlay allows players to set limits of time or money spent and keep track of their machine play in Victoria. All licensees in Victoria running gaming machines must install YourPlay on terminals.

Last November, VGCCC charged ALH with 62 counts of failing to ensure that YourPlay was properly installed on machines across 62 of its 77 venues. The case was then passed on to the magistrate’s court.

Upon passing its ruling, the magistrate agreed the breaches were serious and wilful. This led to ALH being slapped with a $550,000 fine and ordered to pay VGCCC legal costs of $50,000.

Other operators in the firing line in Victoria

ALH is not the only leading operator to feel the wrath of the VGCCC this year. In September, Tabcorp was fined a then-record $1.0m over its conduct during a major system outage in 2020.

Tabcorp is also embroiled in a series of other cases in Victoria linked to underage gambling. In September, VGCCC charged Tabcorp, along with eight venues, for allegedly allowing minors to gamble on electronic betting terminals.

In a similar case, a magistrate this month ordered the Preston Hotel to pay AU$25,300 for allowing underage gambling.

The record fine could soon be surpassed after the VGCCC in October warned Rumotel, operator of the Tower Hotel, it could face an additional fine of up to $1.4m for allegedly breaching responsible gambling rules. This followed an initial set of charges filed back in September.

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