Crown’s responsible gambling measures under the microscope after gambler punted for 96 hours straight

By Noah Taylor Updated
New Victorian tax calculation could hurt Crown’s pokies dollars

A gambler at Melbourne’s Crown Casino punted for 96 hours without leaving the casino, the Victorian royal commission into Crown Resorts has heard, which calls into question the responsible gambling measures.

The Australian Financial Review reports that the problem gambler, a married woman with children, played baccarat for four days straight interspersed with naps slumped at poker machines at the Southbank casino.

Giving evidence in a private hearing in May, the woman’s social worker told the inquiry a Crown employee never stopped to check on her, as is required by law.

Royal commissioner Ray Finkelstein, QC, asked how the woman managed to play for four days straight without sleeping.

“She actually sleeps a little bit, also in front of the pokie machines, but when she wakes up…”

“So she physically stayed in the building in the gambling area for four days straight?” asked Commissioner Finkelstein.

“Yes,” the social worker replied.

Commissioner Finkelstein made it clear throughout the inquiry the way Crown manages responsible gambling measures will weigh heavily on his decision on the $8.6 billion gambling giant’s suitability to hold Victoria’s only casino licence.

This comes as the inquiry has heard Crown hired just 12 responsible service of gambling staff to monitor tens of thousands of patrons and Melbourne’s VIP Mahogany Room executive, Peter Lawrence, admitted to preying on problem gamblers.

Social worker recounts patrons regularly sleeping at poker machines

The social worker, who has visited Crown regularly for three years to observe patrons, said it was normal for Crown staff to fail to check on patrons sleeping and even crying at the poker machines, despite rules mandating staff must check on patrons every 12 hours of continuous gambling or if they are showing “observable signs” of distress.

“Do Crown staff often or regularly come up to people who have been gambling for long periods of time and ask them to take a break?” asked counsel assisting Geoffrey Kozminsky.

“I’ve never seen that before, and I’ve never heard that before.”

“I have seen people crying on their phone and I have seen staff walking by without approaching them and I’ve seen a lot of people sleeping right in front of the pokie machines,” the social worker said.

“And does anybody on the staff do anything?” Commissioner Finkelstein asked.

“No, I don’t think so.”

Crown is Victoria’s largest gaming revenue. It is open 24 hours a day and contains 2628 poker machines, including 1000 operating in “unrestricted mode”, which means they can spin constantly and take higher bets.

Loyalty program perks have led to some gambling harm

The inquiry has also been told Crown’s loyalty program perks, which lure gamblers to Southbank have led some problem gamblers to suicide, prison and bankruptcy.

An anonymous witness in May told the commission his sister’s gambling addiction, which was turbocharged by the loyalty program, led to her suicide by hanging in 2012.

“Before she took her life, she put everything on the table, on the kitchen table, and it was the last 15 years of bank statements. She wanted us to see her behaviour,” the witness said.

“She just loved anything for free. She was a girl that would give blood just to get a cup of coffee and a sausage roll.

“So when Crown Casino opened, she continued that story.”

The commission also heard from grandmother Carolyn Crawford, who served 18 months in prison for stealing money from work to pay for her pokies addiction, primarily at Crown Melbourne.

“I took $407,000 over seven years and they all went down the pokies. And the Crown got a large percentage of that,” she said.

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