Victoria Royal Commission Inquiry Reveals New Crown Failings

Troubles do not seem to end for Australian casino operator Crown Resorts as Victoria royal commission’s inquiry into its sole license was presented with disturbing facts about the casino’s practices related to its responsible gambling obligations.

Long Hours Play Practice

The Wednesday hearing at the commission led by former Federal Court judge Ray Finkelstein, QC revealed that Crown allowed players to continue gambling for 18 hours before enforcing a break while waiting for 12 hours to check whether players experienced symptoms of problem gambling.

Crown’s responsible gambling policy, part of the casino license requirements and the reason for the inquiry, states that gamblers should take a 24-hour break after long hours of gambling, yet the commission was told one player who went on a 34-hour playing streak in 2019 was only asked to take an 8-hour break.

According to Crown’s general manager of responsible gaming Sonja Bauer, the time limit for gambling without a break was reduced by the casino from 24 hours to 18 hours last year, but with discretion at staff’s disposal how to enforce the policy.

The casino tracked automatically players with loyalty cards across the poker machines and gaming tables and responsible gaming advisers were notified after 12, 15, and 17 hours of play to interact with the gambler, meaning to suggest a break, Sonja Bauer continued to reveal details of the casino’s approach to responsible gambling.

According to one of the advisers who gave evidence in private to the commission, the casino’s standard practice was to approach gamblers when they pass the 12-hour mark only when they showed clear signs of problem gambling such as visible distress.

And while loyalty card players were monitored, gamblers without cards could play longer hours without intervention, Bauer admitted, telling the inquiry staff was required to rely on general observations, but due to the 8-hour working shifts and unofficial obligations for leaving staff to inform incoming one about possible long play, the casino has no information whether this policy was implemented at all.

Gambling Limits Policy Implementation

The royal commission which already slapped Crown with a fine for its failings in dealing with junkets, also heard about inconsistencies in Crown’s policy related to gambling limits and enforcing them on players.

Players could lose up to AU$1 million (US$770,000) despite the cap on their losses being set at the daily median of AU$50,000 (US$38,500) and even Crown’s psychologists would not tell them to stop and leave, while the casino’s voluntary self-exclusion program presented barriers to those willing to exclude themselves, designed to protect Crown rather than the players.

Set limits could not be enforced on gamblers playing at unrestricted poker machines which constantly spin and gobble larger bets as there is no way to know when the cap was exceeded unless a staff member happens to walk by and notice, Sonja Bauer admitted.

The commission was also told a casino with 64,000 daily visitors on average appointed just 12 responsible gambling advisers, who were sometimes not able to act upon a time alert for hours, and sometimes leaving alerts without response, while Crown did not have a practice of keeping track how many such occasions occurred.