News Crown gamblers play for 12 hours unchecked

Crown gamblers play for 12 hours unchecked

A royal commission has heard troubling details about the oversight of problem gamblers. Photo: ABC News
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Crown staff only encourage gamblers to take a break after 12 hours of play, a royal commission has been told.

An inquiry into whether Crown remains suitable to keep a licence for its Melbourne operations has heard evidence from the Southbank casino’s responsible gaming head Sonja Bauer.

Ms Bauer said staff would encourage carded players – those who can be electronically tracked – to take a break every 12, 15 and 17 hours.

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

Crown Melbourne has 12 staff employed to monitor responsible gaming, but provides brief training to other staff.

Commissioner Ray Finkelstein said one of Crown Melbourne’s responsible gaming advisors previously gave evidence that she would rarely stop a carded player from gambling when the 12-hour mark came up.

Mr Finkelstein, a former Federal Court judge, said the staff member would only intervene if the gambler was clearly gaming irresponsibly, which was general practice.

Ms Bauer said she could only point to what is in Crown’s responsible gambling code of conduct.

“I’m talking about what actually happens on the gaming floor – not what is written on a piece of paper,” Mr Finkelstein responded.

Mr Finkelstein also asked how general staff, including those serving food and drinks, could be expected to know if someone had been playing for 12 hours if they only worked an eight-hour shift.

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

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

Ms Bauer conceded 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 now in its third week.

It was previously told Crown Melbourne received roughly 64,000 daily visitors from 2016 to 2019, but employed only 12 staff members to monitor responsible gambling.

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

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