VIP patron at Crown ‘gambled 34 hours straight’: Royal commission

Gamblers at Crown Melbourne are only encouraged to take a break after 12 hours of playing.

Gamblers at Crown Melbourne are only encouraged to take a break after 12 hours of playing. Photo: AAP

Crown Melbourne allowed a patron to gamble for 34 hours straight before making the VIP take a break, a royal commission has been told.

The casino’s responsible gaming head Sonja Bauer said staff would encourage carded players – those who can be electronically tracked – to take a break every 12, 15 and 17 hours by using an alert system.

But she said staff would not automatically check on uncarded players, who cannot be tracked, instead relying on general observations.

Counsel assisting Adrian Finanzio SC said a VIP in 2019 played continually for more than 34 hours at Crown Melbourne before they were forced to take a break.

“The system is set up to make it quite possible that someone could gamble for hours on end and not be approached by any staff,” Mr Finanzio told the inquiry into whether Crown remains suitable to keep a licence for its Southbank operations.

Ms Bauer agreed it was possible for this to happen given the casino’s size, staffing levels and alert system.

She said Crown had proposed introducing 12-hour cap on playing in any 24-hour period.

But Mr Finanzio said playing for more than three hours at a time could well be construed as problem gambling.

He also said while Crown Melbourne was not permitted to have ATMs on the gaming floor, customers can withdraw cash when they purchase drinks inside the casino.


Crown was deemed unfit to run a casino at its newly built Barangaroo complex in Sydney. Photo: AAP

Mr Finanzio said one customer in April this year became “agitated” after reaching his maximum daily withdrawal amount at Crown Melbourne’s Velvet Bar.

“This is not illegal, but do you agree it is completely inconsistent with responsible gaming?” he asked Ms Bauer.

She said customers could only withdraw $200 at a time up to their daily limit.

Crown Melbourne, prior to the effects of coronavirus, had 12 staff specially employed to watch out for problem gambling among an estimated 64,000 daily visitors.

It also provided brief responsible gambling training to other staff, including those who serve food and drinks.

Commissioner Ray Finkelstein, a former Federal Court judge, asked how general staff could be expected to watch over customers who might play for 12 hours when they only worked for about eight hours.

Ms Bauer said they had an obligation to pass on any significant observations to incoming staff when they clocked off.

But Mr Finanzio said this obligation was not actually written down in any Crown policy and that the casino did not check whether it occurred.

Ms Bauer said this was correct.

The royal commission was set up by the Andrews Labor government after a NSW inquiry found Crown unsuitable to run its newly built casino in Sydney’s Barangaroo.

That inquiry found Crown facilitated money laundering, partnered with junket operators with links to organised crime groups even after being made aware of these connections, and exposed staff to the risk of detention in China.

The Victorian inquiry is in its third week.

People who gamble at the Southbank casino are three times more likely to experience problem gambling than those who use other Victorian venues, it was told previously.

The inquiry continues on Thursday with further evidence from Ms Bauer.


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