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 operating hours rules.

VGCCC ruled that eight ALH venues in Victoria were operating electronic gaming machines (EGMs) outside of permitted operating hours. The regulator said the plants also failed to comply with mandatory shutdown periods.

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

Between February 15, 2023 and May 25, 2023, activity was detected at 15 EGMs at various venues outside of permitted hours. Venues must close for four hours after every 20 hours of play. They must also adhere to the set hours they have set for operating EGMs.

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

An additional $60,000 fine was imposed in connection with activities at the Boundary Taverner. Again, the venue held extraordinary general meetings outside of business hours and did not meet the closure deadline, but only on May 25, 2023.

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

“Ensuring that guests take breaks and are not exposed to extended periods of uninterrupted gaming is crucial to responsible gaming operations. VGCCC will continue to monitor slot machine operations to ensure our expectations are 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 is the second fine the group has faced in 2023.

In August, ALH was fined $550,000 for violating state gambling control regulations.

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

YourPlay allows players to set time or money limits and keep track of their slot gaming in Victoria. All licensees in Victoria operating slot machines are required to install YourPlay on terminals.

Last November, VGCCC filed charges against ALH on 62 counts alleging the company failed to ensure YourPlay was properly installed on computers at 62 of its 77 venues. The case was then referred to the district court.

In passing his sentence, the judge agreed that the violations were serious and willful. This resulted in ALH being fined $550,000 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 $1.0 million for its conduct during a major system outage in 2020.

Tabcorp is also involved in a number of other cases in Victoria relating to underage gambling. In September, VGCCC filed charges against Tabcorp and eight venues for allegedly allowing minors to gamble on electronic betting terminals.

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

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