Inquiry Slams Crown’s Responsible Gaming Program

An inquiry into Crown Resorts’ suitability to keep its Melbourne license took a twist this week. The royal commission slammed Crown’s responsible gaming program or lack of one.

Crown informed the inquiry its Melbourne casino had up to 64,000 visitors per day between 2016 and 2019. The gambling giant only employs 12 people to monitor potential problem gambling on site. Commissioner Raymond Finkelstein said the responsible gaming program would “achieve next to nothing.”

“I’m just trying to work out how a handful of people can look out for people suffering from gambling problems. It can’t be done. it is physically, humanly impossible.”

Sonja Bauer is the responsible gaming head for Crown Melbourne. Bauer conceded Crown’s responsible gaming program was inadequate even after increasing the number of advisors to 12. Bauer revealed Crown’s other staff receive training to spot the warning signs of a problem gambler.

Counsel assisting Adrian Finanzio rubbished Bauer’s claims. Finanzio discovered Crown Melbourne’s food and beverage staff completed less than half-hour of problem gambling training.

Furthermore, Crown failed to follow up on that training for two years. Finanzio noted almost all of Crown’s food and beverage staff spoken to could not recall what responsible gaming is.

Finanzio labelled the training “pretty forgettable” and “tonkenistic.” Bauer said she is hopeful her training is useful. “All you’ve got is hope,” Finanzio replied.

Crown Pokies Show Lack of Responsible Gaming Procedures

Pokies are big business for Crown Melbourne. The Southbank Casino has more than 2,600 pokies across its vast gaming floor. Crown has a licence permitting it to run pokies 24 hours per day. No other venue in Victoria receives this special treatment.

Finanzio showed evidence that pokies at Crown Melbourne spin faster than at other casinos. Additionally, Crown’s pokies accept maximum bets of $10 compared to $5 elsewhere in Victoria.

Crown’s responsible gaming staff, of which there are only 12, monitor all 2,620 pokie machines. 1,000 of those machines are unrestricted, which means gamblers are able to make unlimited bets and use the auto-play feature.

This means, as a result of low staff numbers, Crown only has, on average, one person looking out for problem gambling for every 870 poker machines. One person for every 105 machines is the requirement for every other Victorian venue.

The inquiry received a letter from Crown last week claiming it is making sweeping changes to its responsible gaming program. Those changes include increasing the number of advisors who monitor pokies in addition to setting playing times for customers.

The inquiry immediately requested access to the proposed changes and minutes from the meeting where Crown’s board developed them. Crown failed to provide either.

“The letter promises to stop things that, on one view, should never have been happening in the first place,” Finanzio said.

Crown Customers Three-Times More Like to Experience Problem Gambling

The inquiry heard a shocking statistic that is sure to have implications for Crown keeping its Melbourne licence. Those gambling at Crown are three times more likely to experience problem gambling than at any other Victorian casino.

The unrestricted gaming machines are responsible for some 61 per cent of problem gaming at Crown. A lack of playing time restrictions only serves to make matters worse.

Finanzio told the inquiry some of the issues Crown customers face.

“Some who gamble have fallen victim to loan sharks exposing themselves and families to intimidation and extortion, by putting themselves in the position of owing money to criminals.”

Crown’s responsible gaming program is inadequate at best, that much is obvious. The latest findings raise several other questions, too. These include why Crown is allowed machines with $10 maximum bets instead of $5. Why can Crown operate its pokies 24 hours per day?

These latest revelations are the latest in a long line of damning evidence of Crown basically doing what it likes when it comes to running a casino. Shares in Crown fell almost two per cent following the latest uncoverings.