Problem gambler sues Crown for $4.6 million

By Noah Taylor Updated
Crown CEO Steve McCann exits the business

A problem gambler at Melbourne’s Crown Casino is suing the casino giant, claiming staff admitted they acted irresponsibly by luring him back to the roulette table.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Ahmed Hasna is suing Crown for $4.6 million.

The problem gambler said he gambled at the Southbank casino every second day between 1993 and 2019, sometimes for 26 hours straight.

Hasna filed a suit in the Federal Court alleging Crown knew, or should have known, he had a gambling addiction.

Instead of encouraging him to gamble responsibly and checking on his financial and mental wellbeing, Hasna said Crown enticed him back to the casino with gifts, lavish dinners, holidays and free tickets to concerts and sporting events.

Hasna’s experience was raised in June at Victoria’s royal commission into Crown’s casino licence, examining how the James Packer-backed group invited him back to its exclusive Mahogany Room to gamble on credit even after he lost $100,000 of chips bought with a cheque that later bounced and after he told staff he was in financial trouble and was considering banning himself from the casino.

Crown’s head of VIP customer service Peter Lawrence told the commission that the casino’s actions were irresponsible and “probably” predatory.

In his court application, Hasna claims Crow did not stop him from playing even after his mother twice came to the casino and pleaded with staff to stop him from gambling away “all of the family’s money”.

Crown management did not permanently ban Hasna until December 2020 despite “several recommendations” from Crown security to do so following abusive outbursts towards staff when he was losing, the claim said.

Lawsuit claims ignore harmful gambling warning signs

Hasna alleges Crown ignored these incidents as a sign he was gambling dangerously, despite them being listed in its Responsible Gambling Code of Conduct as an indicator players were being harmed.

According to his claim, Hasna lost $30,000 after coming into the casino to collect free tickets to a Phil Collins show and he also lost money while collecting four corporate box tickets to the 2017 AFL grand final.

The tickets were cancelled after Crown caught Hasna trying to scalp them, the claim said.

Hasna borrowed money from his family, friends and associates to fund his visits to the casino and in 2016 his family had to sell his sister’s Newport home to pay back his gambling debts, the claim said.

He is now estranged from his six siblings and rarely sees his parents because of his gambling at Crown, while his wife fought him for custody of their children in 2010 because she was concerned about his gambling.

Hasna’s mental health and personal relationships have improved since he was banned from the casino and now lives with his wife and children, the court claim said.

Victorian royal commission hears Hasna’s story

In closing arguments in July, without directly referring to Hasna’s situation, counsel assisting the royal commission argued that it was unfit to run a casino in Melbourne due to its “flagrant” and repeated legal and ethical breaches, including ignoring the obligations in its licence to provide gambling services responsibly.

Hasna seeks $4,593,000 in damages, which includes $200,000 in money lent to him by a friend.

The facts of Hasna’s claim closely mirror the filed case brought by top real estate salesman Harry Kakavas in 2009, a known problem gambler who turned over $1.5 billion playing baccarat and lost $20.5 million over 14 months.

The High Court of Australia in 2013 found that “in the absence of a relevant legislative provision, there is no general duty upon a casino to protect gamblers from themselves”.

Hasna’s case is brought under the Australian Consumer Law, legislation designed to protect consumers, which passed in 2010.

Commissioner Ray Finkelstein will deliver his recommendations to the Andrews government about whether Crown should keep its licence by October 15.

An inquiry in New South Wales found in February that Crown was unfit to hold the licence for its new Sydney casino, while another royal commission in Western Australia is examining its Perth casino licence.

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