Crown Resorts Faces Pokies Restrictions

Sweeping changes and severe pokies restrictions are coming into play for Crown Melbourne as Victoria reacts to the royal commission.

Crown Resorts faces several pokies restrictions at its properties as the fallout from the royal commission continues. Crown operates a staggering 2,628 gaming machines at its Melbourne property. The pokies restrictions will, no doubt, upend those machines’ profitability.

The Victorian government recently confirmed it is imposing its toughest ever mandatory pre-commitment laws on Crown Melbourne. The pokies restrictions follow key recommendations from the Finkelstein royal commission into Crown’s affairs. Ray Finkelstein gave 25 recommendations to the government, including a major crackdown on problem gambling.

There are three major pokies restrictions in play at Crown. First, a daily, weekly, or monthly time limit or loss limit is mandatory. In addition, it is impossible to change those limits for 36 hours after they are reached. Furthermore, no player is permitted to gamble for more than 12 hours in any 24-hour period, or for more than three hours in a single session.

Pokies Restrictions Are The First Raft of Crown Changes

Gaming Minister Melissa Horne confirmed the new pokies restrictions. In addition, she promised a second raft of law changes implementing further restrictions later in 2022.

“The royal commission recommended a mandatory pre-commitment scheme be put in place at Crown and that is exactly what we will deliver through legislation later this year. Detailed analysis and consultation is currently taking place to best implement the second tranche of legislation.”

Crown has a pre-commitment system in place called YourPlay. However, it is voluntary. The new pokies restrictions replace YourPlay in its entirety.

Crown Melbourne’s customers lost $462 million across the 2,628 machine portfolio in 2018-19. This accounted for 20% of the casino’s total revenue. Victorians lost another $2.7 billion during the same financial period, doing so across the state’s other 26,300 machines.

What Other Laws Are Incoming?

Imposing the nation’s toughest pokies restrictions is the first hurdle Crown faces. The casino already has a Special Manager in place who oversees operations. This Special Manager remains in place for at least two years and is one reason Crown Melbourne kept its gaming licence despite dozens of failures.

Finkelstein recommends a total ban on junket operators, something Crown already imposed on itself. Furthermore, the state does not want any person from owning more than a 5% stake in the company. This will not be a problem if the $8.9 billion takeover by Blackstone Group goes ahead. Blackstone is acquiring 100% of Crown’s stock as part of the deal.

Becoming a cashless venue is also touted. Crown is phasing out all cash except for gaming transactions of $1,000 or less. In addition, all gamblers are tracked with a Crown card that tracks their winnings and losses.

Why Are These New Laws Coming Into Play?

The damning royal commission report is the sole reason Crown faces pokies restrictions. The commission found dozens of failures on Crown’s part. These include lax anti-money-laundering procedures, and a lack of responsible gambling measures.

One woman gambled at a baccarat table for 96 hours straight at Crown Melbourne. Nobody from Crown approached the woman to check on her well-being.

Another customer lost a staggering $300,000 in only two months. Crown gave the man access to its VIP room instead of asking if he needed help.

It is Crown’s approach to problem gambling that worried Finkelstein the most. Its approach is “perhaps the most damning discovery by the commission.”

“Crown Melbourne had for years held itself out as having a world’s best approach to problem gambling. Nothing can be further from the truth.”

Crown spent $1.9 million on its responsible gambling schemes in recent years. However, it repeatedly failed to stop self-excluded patrons from playing pokies. The catastrophic failures resulted in Finkelstein declaring Crown Melbourne unfit for a gaming licence. The casino continues operating because the report agreed the casino’s revamped management team is dedicated to making wholesale changes.