Crown's responsible gaming program slammed

·3-min read

Crown Melbourne has only 12 staff employed to ensure an estimated 64,000 daily visitors gamble responsibly, a royal commission has heard.

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.

The inquiry was told Crown Melbourne had up to 64,000 visitors per day from 2016 to 2019.

But it currently employs just 12 people to monitor problem gambling, which commissioner Raymond Finkelstein said would achieve "next to nothing".

"I'm just trying to work out how a handful of people can look out for people suffering from gambling problems," the former Federal Court judge said on Tuesday.

"It can't be done. It is physically, humanly impossible."

The inquiry heard Crown Melbourne employed seven responsible gaming advisors until December 2019.

Ms Bauer conceded that even the increased 12 responsible gaming advisors was inadequate. But she said Crown's other staff were also trained to observe signs of problem gambling.

Counsel assisting Adrian Finanzio said Crown Melbourne's food and beverage staff completed less than 30 minutes of training relating to problem gambling.

Crown, Mr Finanzio added, did not follow up on this training for two years. He also said most of Crown's food and beverage staff who spoke to the inquiry said they could not remember what responsible gaming service meant.

Mr Finanzio described the training as "tokenistic" and "pretty forgettable" and asked Ms Bauer whether she believed it was an effective program.

"I'm hoping the training is useful," Ms Bauer said.

Mr Finanzio responded: "All you've got is hope."

People who gamble at Crown Melbourne are three times more likely to experience problem gambling than those who use other Victorian venues, the inquiry was told.

The Southbank Casino has more than 2620 pokie machines that are permitted to operate 24 hours per day - unlike all other venues in Victoria.

Many of Crown's pokies also spin faster and accept maximum bets of $10, rather than five dollars.

Mr Finanzio said Crown Melbourne would have, on average, one person monitoring problem gambling for every 870 pokie machines.

Every other Victorian venue is required to have one person for every 105 machines.

The inquiry on Thursday night received a letter from Crown that outlined plans to minimise problem gaming by increasing the number of responsible gaming advisors.

It also said Crown would introduce set playing times for its customers.

"The letter promises to stop things that, on one view, should never have been happening in the first place," Mr Finanzio told the inquiry.

He said the inquiry immediately requested access to the proposed changes and minutes from the May 24 board meeting where they were developed.

But neither have been provided.

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 continues on Wednesday with further evidence from Ms Bauer.