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Crown urged to be more responsible in problem gambling situations

Tue, Mar 5, 9:36am by Staff Writer

The James Packer-owned Crown Resorts is proposing to make its directors more responsible for oversight at its Melbourne casino after a state government investigation found the gaming giant was failing to monitor and intervene in problem gambling.

According to The Brisbane Times, officials from the Victorian gambling watchdog met with Crown brass at the Southbank casino last month.

The watchdog confirms that Crown had submitted a program of reforms designed to “fully engage” its independent directors in proactive strategic oversight at the nation’s biggest casino.

The annual meeting between Crown executives and the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) was the first since the regulator completed its wide ranging five-yearly review of Crown’s suitability to hold the state’s sole casino license.

The report backed Crown to continue operating, but the report outlined a raft of shortcomings and stressed the need for Crown to make improvements to its governance and management in order to meet its commitment to being a leader in responsible gambling practices.

Issues first broached last August

In August 2018, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Crown Resorts is failing to adequately monitor and intervene in problem gambling.

The Herald reported that Melbourne’s only casino operator needed to make drastic improvement to its governance and management in order to meet its commitment to responsible gambling.

The regulator said in August that it was “not confident” that Crown had sufficient staffing to proactively intervene and offer assistance to gamblers at risk of harm, while its policy of online intervening after gamblers spent 16 or 24 hours continuously gambling was described as “very conservative” and not conducive to responsible gambling, the report said.

It also highlighted a need for improvements to Crown’s regulations around money laundering risks and its prevention of criminals and problem gamblers who were subject to “exclusion orders” from accessing the casino.

“The review of Crown suggests they are just scraping by on terms of governance arrangements, addressing people being harmed by gambling and detecting and reporting criminal money being laundered through the casino,” Victorian Inter-Church Gambling Taskforce member Mark Zirnsak said.

The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation confirmed that Crown had no moved to improve its board procedures in response to the regulator’s findings that it should set up a charter for directors, ensure board committee chairs were “properly qualified” and it develop “a risk appetite with appropriate monitoring” to improve the company’s institutional governance.

The Crown board now includes former federal minister Helen Coonan, prominent businessmen Harold Mitchell and Geoff Dixon, as well as former AFL boss Andrew Demetriou.

Crown had also moved on a recommendation to give the regulator greater visibility on the reporting and decision making relationships between all of the boards, committees and executive meetings responsible for or with oversight of casino functions.

Crown’s executive chairman John Alexander said the annual meeting between the company and the VCGLR went “very well”.

“There were 20 recommendations, we’ve accepted all of them,” Mr Alexander said.

Another of the VCGLR’s recommendations was to expand the rollout of facial-recognition security cameras at entrance points to the casino in order by July 1 to “strengthen perimetre control” and improve the detection of excluded patrons attempting to enter or remain in areas of the casino.

“We’ve increased the number of cameras to about 50,” Mr Alexander said.

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