Advocates call for change to Perth casino’s 24/7 operating hours

By William Brown Updated
Owen in the spotlight for Crown Perth royal commission appointment

There are fresh calls for a change to casino operating hours in Western Australia to curb the impact of problem gambling.

ABC News reports that Relationships Australia WA executive director Michael Sheehan wants warning signs, similar to those on cigarette packets, to be mandated inside the casino, as well as clocks and natural light so that gamblers don’t lose track of time.

He saisds the impact on relationships and families from all forms of gambling was significant, often leading to other problems include absenteeism from work, domestic violence and even suicide.

Mr Sheehan is also calling for the WA government to invest more in developing public awareness campaigns.

Also included in his wish list would be to prohibit free or discounted alcohol or free credits being offered to gamblers and to limit the casino’s opening hours.

“The argument will be that there’s a lot of people who do enjoy it as a social activity but there is the proportion of problem gamblers who really get hooked in and lose a lot of money,” Mr Sheehan said.

“The other thing we would be looking at is having counsellors in the casino that people can talk to.”

Peter runs a helpline for Gamblers Anonymous in the state and lost his career through gambling addiction.

He said the WA government had the best record in the country, because it had kept pokies out of pubs and clubs.

However, he said enforcing restricted hours on the Crown Perth casino would take the pressure off families and employers who often ended up bearing the brunt of compulsive gambling.

“Gambling induces in people…a real sense of unreality, almost like you are living on another planet,” he said.

“So you become so dependent on the dopamine triggers and all of the brain chemistry triggers that you get from gambling and from gambling machines that you want to stay there.”

Peter said that in a “bizarre” way, “the machine has become a comforter and your best friend.”

“You experience withdrawal from gambling just like you experience withdrawal from alcohol or drugs,” he said.

“So the casino closing at 2am, and reopening at 9am, would just give people some sense of reality and respite and break from things.”

Peter agreed that responsible gambling signs in the casino, including the support numbers for helplines, could help be a wake up call to compulsive gamblers, but only if the messages were strong enough.

“That in-your-face, emotional, have-you-considered-the consequences sort of advertising,” he said.

“Have you thought about what you’re gambling with, have you thought about your wife and your kids and your jobs?”

Crown Perth revenues largely derived from poker machines

Crown Perth declined to comment “out of respect for the West Australian royal commission”, a spokeswoman said.

But on its website, the company said it has a responsible gaming team and code of conduct to help reduce the potentially harmful impacts of problem gaming.

Over half of Crown Perth’s revenue comes from its electronic gaming machines.

It was forced to close for three months in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic but its gaming revenue was still $391 million for the financial year, of which about $206 million came from its 2.483 machines.

Of that total, Crown Perth paid almost $40 million in tax to the state government.

About $939,000 was diverted to providing free face-to-face counselling and a 24/7 helpline for problem gamblers and their families, as well as awareness campaigns by a committee made up of state government agencies, Crown and others.

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