Crown patron ‘gambled 34 hours straight’

A gambler played for more than 34 hours straight at Crown Melbourne before they were forced to take a break, a royal commission has been told. 

An inquiry into whether Crown remains suitable to keep a licence for its Southbank operations has heard evidence from the 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 through 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 in 2019 a VIP gambler played for more than 34 hours straight 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 said. 

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

Crown Melbourne has 12 staff employed to monitor responsible gaming and 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, and that this 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 Mr Finanzio said this obligation was not written down in any Crown policy and 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 in its third week. 

It was previously told Crown Melbourne received about 64,000 daily visitors from 2016 to 2019, but employed only 12 staff 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. 

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