Sat, Feb 03, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Court sides with casino over ‘deception’

OUT OF LUCK:The plaintiff did not sue for damages, but wanted ‘misleading’ machines removed from casinos operated by Crown Resorts, which has run into problems in China

Reuters, SYDNEY

An Australian court on Friday dismissed a suit accusing Crown Resorts Ltd, the biggest listed casino operator outside China, and slot machine maker Aristocrat Leisure Ltd of giving gamblers misleading information on the chances of winning.

The ruling, on grounds of lack of specific evidence, is a small, but high-visibility win for Crown, controlled by Australian billionaire James Packer, which has battled unproven claims of poker machine fixing and encouraging problem gambling at its flagship Melbourne casino.

Australian regulators have said they would investigate the claims, which Crown denies.

An Australian Federal Court judge said that Shonica Guy, who described herself as a former gambling addict, had raised important questions about how casinos treat problem gamblers, but failed to prove the defendants’ misleading or unconscionable conduct.

“My findings ... do not diminish the tragedies involved in the accounts given by Ms Guy and the other lay witnesses,” Justice Debra Mortimer wrote. “However ... most of this evidence was not specific enough to contribute to proving the allegations made.”

A spokeswoman for Crown had no immediate comment.

Guy was “grateful for the opportunity to have had my day in court on behalf of all Australians who have been hurt by the pokies,” she said in a statement issued by her law firm.

Law firm Maurice Blackburn said it was “proud that our case has been able to play a role in the conversation we must continue to have” about problem gambling, but did not say whether it would renew action in the courts.

Crown is especially reliant on keeping a positive reputation in Australia since more than a dozen of its staff were jailed in China for selling gambling holidays there, prompting it to quit all offshore interests and focus on its home market.

Guy did not seek damages, but instead wanted court-ordered declarations that Crown and Aristocrat engaged in misleading conduct and a ban on a certain slot machine in its current configuration.

The filing said a slot machine called Dolphin Treasure at Crown’s Melbourne casino suggested its five “reels” had the same number of characters, but one column had substantially more, lowering a gambler’s chance of a win.

However, a reasonable gambler would get a realistic idea of the chances of winning “as soon as she or he actually starts gambling and the randomness of the operation of the machine and the returns become apparent,” Mortimer wrote.

While Guy’s evidence was credible, she added that “the absence of specific evidence from individuals claiming to have been exploited or victimized during gambling sessions at Crown Casino because of the identified features of the Dolphin Treasure [machine] substantially affected the strength of the applicant’s case.”

In a statement, Aristocrat said it welcomed the decision and would continue backing “balanced and fact-based harm minimization initiatives.”

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