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Victoria gambling regulator charges Tower Hotel

| By Robert Fletcher
The Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) has charged Rumotel Pty Ltd, operator of the Tower Hotel, for breaching gambling control rules in the Australian state.

Tower Hotel faces 34 charges in Victoria for allegedly running gaming machines without the YourPlay mandatory pre-commitment technology installed. An additional charge was also filed over an alleged failure to ensure staff had completed compulsory training.

All Victoria licensees are required to install YourPlay on gaming machines. YourPlay allows users to set optional limits of time or money spent and keep track of their machine play.

In response, the VGCCC has ordered Tower Hotel to cease operating gaming machines entirely until the matter is rectified. The 35 charges could lead to a maximum fine of AU$758,172 (£390,833/€454,542/US$488,443).

“Any venue operator that fails to provide players with the ability to set time and spend limits through the YourPlay system is in breach of a key legal obligation aimed at protecting the community from gambling harm,” VGCCC chief executive Annette Kimmitt said.

“We are actively monitoring venue compliance with the requirement to have YourPlay available on all electronic gaming machines. We will pursue those that opportunistically or deliberately contravene their obligations.”

Similar charges in Victoria for ALH

The VGCCC last month also sanctioned Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group (ALH) for similar breaches.

Following an anonymous tip-off in late 2021, the VGCCC inspected a number of ALH venues across Victoria. The regulator identified 220 gaming machines that were running without YourPlay installed.

In November 2022, the VGCCC charged ALH with 62 counts of failing to ensure YourPlay was properly installed on machines across 62 of its 77 venues. A magistrates court hearing led to ALH being fined $550,000 and ordered to pay VGCCC legal costs of $50,000.

Also in August, BlueBet was charged for breaching rules on advertising, with the operator facing a fine of up to $945,187. BlueBet displayed three gambling ads on billboards in Victoria over the course of a fortnight last year.  

The VGCCC said this was in breach of state laws that ban static gambling ads from appearing in certain locations. Prohibited sites include on public transport infrastructure, within 150 metres of a school’s perimeter and on or above a public road, road infrastructure or road reserve.

Record fine for Tabcorp

However, the largest fine was reserved for Tabcorp, which last week was ordered to pay a record $1.0m. This was in relation to its conduct during a major system outage in 2020.

Tabcorp’s Wagering and Betting System went down during the 2020 Spring Racing Carnival and was unavailable for approximately 36 hours. The Wagering and Betting Licence and Agreement requires the system to be continuously available. 

The VGCCC criticised Tabcorp’s conduct during an investigation into the matter. It also hit out at the operator for its response to directions from the VGCCC over the case.

Ruling on the case, the VGCCC said the seriousness of the breach warranted a record fine from the regulator. The VGCCC also referenced Tabcorp’s “repeated failure” to comply with directions.

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