Kennett surprised Crown probe didn’t come sooner

by Charlotte Lee Last Updated
Victorian royal commission focuses on Crown?s problem gambling strategies

A former Victorian Premier and the man who approved Crown Melbourne more than 20 years ago has slammed a move to set up a royal commission into the casino.

News.com.au reports that an official probe into Crown Resorts was announced last Monday, in the wake of damning findings from the NSW regulator’s money laundering agency, which found Crown unsuitable to hold a gaming licence at its new Barangaroo venue in Sydney.

The findings of that inquiry have prompted investigation from West Australia and Victorian authorities.

Mr Kennett said a royal commission into the Melbourne venue should have been called much earlier.

“I found it amazing that once a number of Crown staff were imprisoned in CHina that at that point someone didn’t care to say what’s going on here,” he said.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the probe was about making sure casino licence holders in Victoria were accountable for their actions.

“Establishing a royal commission will ensure the most appropriate access to information regarding Crown Melbourne’s suitability to hold the casino licence, given the commission’s powers to compel witnesses and documentation,” he said.

The findings will be handed down by August 1.

Crown halts VIP room smoking in Melbourne amid dealers’ concerns

Fears for its staff’s safety has prompted Crown Resorts to ban its high rollers from smoking cigarettes and cigars in enclosed VIP areas.

The New Daily reported in October that the last minute backflip occurred after complaints from Melbourne workers, who were worried about catching COVID-19 from smokers coughing and exhaling in their faces as they dealt cards.

A Crown spokesperson said: “We will ask customers to step outside to smoke as part of Crown’s cautious and gradual progression towards COVID normal.”

“We will reassess this again with the benefit of revised government directions next month.”

Coronavirus concerns were raised on Sunday when Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced casinos would be allowed to reopen from Monday under a further easing of lockdown restrictions.

Under the new rules, Crown’s Melbourne casino was now allowed up to 1000 patrons, with table games like blackjack and baccarat set to restart on Wednesday when the venue officially reopens.

Under a special legal exemption, big spending high rollers are allowed to smoke while gambling in VIP areas to enable what Crown calls “significant international play”.

These people aren’t just regular gamblers, but what dealers call high net worth individuals, who can spend up to $500,000 in a single hand.

Even without a global pandemic, many dealers resented having to breathe in gamblers’ second-hand smoke, which can cause long-term respiratory issues later in life.

In October, Star Entertainment Group, owners of Treasury Casino and Star Casino on the Gold Coast and in Sydney moved to ban indoor smoking at its venues by 2023.

Only the ACT, South Australia and Tasmania have banned smoking in all enclosed areas of casinos, including high roller rooms.

Dealers at Crown hope the company follows suit.

Steven, an experienced dealer who did not wish to use his real name over fear of losing his job, had been begging Crown to ban indoor smoking over fear of inhaling virus-infected droplets while working.

“It makes me feel really uncomfortable,” he said.

“My biggest fear is we reopen in the next couple of days and then someone contracts COVID at Crown, the whole complex is shutdown again and that leads to another shutdown in the state.”

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