The inquiry into Crown Melbourne heard testimony in May that the casino allegedly allowed a woman to gamble for 96 hours straight.
Victoria formed a royal commission into Crown Resorts in February. Its purpose was an inquiry in New South Wales that concluded the Australian casino operator was unsuitable to hold a gaming license in Sydney. Victoria’s probe is to review whether Crown has failed to adhere to state laws, including requirements to combat potential problem gambling.
During a private hearing in May, a social worker told the royal commission that a woman was allowed to gamble unchecked by Crown Melbourne staff for a staggering four consecutive days. Other than taking short naps while sitting at pokie machines — called slot machines in the US — the woman says she gambled nonstop for some 96 hours.
Victorian gaming regulations require that casinos have trained staff to identify problem gamblers and assist them in crisis. The social worker says the woman in question is a married doctor and mother who has a known and well-documented gambling problem.
The individual reportedly played baccarat for the vast majority of the four-day binge.
Royal Commissioner Ray Finkelstein is spearheading the review. The review is officially called the Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and License of Crown Resorts.
Finkelstein and the commission told the social worker that casinos are supposed to check on gamblers who stay on the floor for long periods. The casino staff is also supposed to assist those who are displaying “observable signs” of distress.
I have seen people crying on their phone and I have seen staff walking by without approaching them. I’ve seen a lot of people sleeping right in front of the pokie machines,” the social worker said.
“And anybody of the staff do anything?” Finkelstein asked. “No, I don’t think so,” the social worker answered.
Finkelstein has said that his ruling on Crown Resorts’ suitability to continue operating Crown Melbourne will be heavily dependent on how the company manages problem gamblers. The social worker’s testimony, which was made public this week with identities removed, certainly won’t help Crown’s odds of maintaining its gaming privileges in Victoria.
It’s not the first time a patron has allegedly gone on a gambling bender at Crown Melbourne. Early last month, the royal commission heard testimony that a gambler went unchecked for 34 hours gambling at Crown Melbourne.
Opened in 1994, Crown Melbourne was Crown Resorts’ first integrated casino resort.
Today, the casino group owns and operates Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth, plus Crown Aspinalls, a private gaming club in London. It also controls Crown Sydney, which the company opened as a non-gaming resort and luxury residence last December.
Crown Melbourne is presently responsible for the bulk of Crown Resorts’ earnings. In 2019, prior to the pandemic, Crown Melbourne generated earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) of AU$589.5 million (US$440.3 million).
Crown Perth was a distant second at US$166 million, and Aspinall’s third at just $5 million.
Potential takeovers remain in the works, Crown rival Star Entertainment considered the front-runner for a reverse acquisition.