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Australia – VGCCC commences further disciplinary proceedings against Crown Melbourne

By - 4 July 2022

The Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) has commenced disciplinary proceedings against Crown Melbourne Limited in relation to its Responsible Services of Gambling obligations.

The Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and Licence found Crown committed multiple breaches in delivering its Responsible Gambling Code of Conduct, which included not adequately supervising or interacting with hundreds or possibly thousands of customers who exhibited signs of problem or risky gambling.

The VGCCC today requested information from Crown on its Responsible Service of Gambling obligations. Once that information has been considered by the VGCCC, it can determine the appropriate disciplinary action to take. The actions available to the VGCCC include: imposing a fine (up to a maximum of $100m), varying the casino licence, censuring Crown and directing it to take rectification steps.

VGCCC Chair Fran Thorn said: “Crown’s responsible gambling obligations are a condition of the casino licence, designed to protect vulnerable patrons and to prevent gambling related harm to patrons, their families and the community. There is no more important obligation.” 

“We heard many distressing stories at the Royal Commission of vulnerable patrons being encouraged to gamble beyond their means.  The VGCCC will therefore be unflinching in its resolve to deal with the issues uncovered at the Royal Commission regarding Crown’s approach to responsible gambling, and to ensure the casino operator acts in line with its legal obligations and the community’s expectations.”

The VGCCC will make a further announcement once it has considered Crown’s response to the request for information issued today and determined the appropriate disciplinary action to take.

Further details of the Royal Commission’s findings concerning Responsible Service of Gambling are set out in Chapter 8 of the final report issued in October 2021.

These disciplinary proceedings follow the VGCCC’s recent disciplinary action to fine Crown $80 million for its illegal China Union Pay process, which was uncovered by the Royal Commission. The VGCCC is considering further potential disciplinary proceedings arising from other matters highlighted by the Royal Commission.

The Royal Commission’s final report stated: “Perhaps the most damning discovery by the Commission is the manner in which Crown Melbourne deals with the many vulnerable people who have a gambling problem. The cost to the community of problem gambling is enormous. It is not only the gambler who suffers. It also affects many other people, and institutions.”

“Crown Melbourne had for years held itself out as having a world’s best approach to problem gambling. Nothing can be further from the truth. The Commission heard many distressing stories from people whose lives were ruined by gambling but whose situation might have been improved if casino staff had carried out their obligations under Crown Melbourne’s Gambling Code.”  

Section 69 of the Casino Control Act makes it a condition of the casino licence for the operator to implement a Responsible Gambling Code of Conduct that complies with certain regulations and Ministerial directions.

The Gambling Code must include a requirement of some form of interaction or referral to specialist services where customers display signs of distress, unacceptable behaviour or signs of potential gambling related harm. This includes “gambling for extended periods without a break” (Ch. 8, [85]-[93]).

The Royal Commission found Crown breached this obligation by adopting and following an internal document known as the Play Periods Policy.

“A long period’ is between three hours and five to six hours,” it said. “Yet, the various versions of the Play Periods Policy discussed above do not require an observation or interaction by Crown Melbourne staff until at least 12 hours of gambling (without a break of two or more hours). In practice, the position is worse. At the 12-hour mark, staff will only observe a customer, not interact with them, unless they are displaying some other Observable Sign.”

It added: “Crown Melbourne has consistently failed to comply with both the Gambling Code and the Play Periods Policy. Players have been allowed to gamble continuously for 12 hours or more without any observation or interaction. Some customers have been allowed to gamble continuously for well over 24 hours. Crown Melbourne has for many years consistently breached its Gambling Code and, therefore, a condition of its casino licence.”

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