A suspended prison sentence has been handed down in court to a hotelier who breached gambling rules by playing his own poker machines after hours, netting over $50,000 in the process.
Robert William Appelkamp, the co-director, hotel and gaming manager of the Hotel Mclaren in South Australia’s McLaren Vale, admitted in the Christies Beach Magistrates Court to 16 breaches of the state’s Gaming Machines Act.
According to the government’s Consumer and Business Services division, Mr Appelkamp collected winnings totalling $52,672.59 over the space of 12 months by playing the venue’s poker machines after closing time on 103 separate occasions.
Under the law, directors and gaming employees are banned from playing on their own machines because of their inside knowledge of when the machines are likely to pay out.
Consumer and Business Services became aware of the issue in 2016, when a patron of the hotel reported it after learning that a jackpot had been won overnight outside of trading hours.
The court heard that Mr Appelkamp’s conduct involved significant dishonesty, the agency said, including that he had falsified handpay receipts to make it look like it was a patron who had collected the winnings during trading hours.
In a separate incident, Consumer and Business Services said that Mr Appelkamp had won a $10,000 jackpot but played the credits down to $9,993 in order to avoid having to complete anti-money laundering paperwork that involves a photo identification check.
Such conduct, Magistrate Susan O’Connor said, amounted to Mr Appelkamp “deliberately cover[ing] his tracks”.
Ms O’Connor dismissed Mr Appelkamp’s submission that he had only played the machines to pass the time while waiting for tea towels to dry, stating that the evidence before her showed he had only ever cashed in winnings worth more than $200 at a time.
She also noted that other employees of the hotel knew about the situation, but feared losing their jobs if they reported the matter because he was a co-director of the hotel, which is owned by his daughter.
In her ruling, Ms O’Connor sentenced Mr Appelkamp to two months’ jail time, suspended on the condition of 12 months’ good behaviour and that he not enter the gaming room at the hotel during that time.
The Hotel Mclaren has been contacted for comment.
Commissioner for Liquor and Gambling Dini Soulio said that it was a serious breach of the law, as evidenced by the fact that this was the first prosecution of its kind in South Australia.
“People who run venues with gaming machines are expected to abide by the rules and not seek to exploit the system for their own personal gain,” the commissioner said.
“I would hope this matter would serve as a deterrent to those who work in the liquor and gambling industry who may seek to engage in this kind of conduct.”
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.