Crown Melbourne’s new responsible gambling policy to force poker rethink

The scheduling of poker tournament series at Crown Melbourne could look very different in future after Crown announced a new “12 Hour Daily Visit” policy for all guests.

The new policy is part of Crown Melbourne’s response to the recent Royal Commission which found the company unsuitable to retain its Victorian casino license but granted a two-year stay of execution in which to prove it has become suitable. One of the key findings outlined in the Royal Commission’s final report was “the manner in which Crown Melbourne deals with the many vulnerable people who have a gambling problem. 

“Crown Melbourne had for years held itself out as having a world’s best approach to problem gambling,” the report read. 

“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. 

“Within a very short time, the Commission discovered that for many years Crown Melbourne had engaged in conduct that is, in a word, disgraceful. This is a convenient shorthand for describing conduct that was variously illegal, dishonest, unethical and exploitative.”

To be fair to Crown, the company has been quick to act with 10 of the 11 directors in place this time last year since departed – some by choice, some not so much. And alongside a raft of new initiatives designed to address issues around money laundering, tax payments and ownership structures, Crown is also overhauling its approach to responsible gambling.

In announcing the “12 Hour Daily Visit”, Crown said, “Throughout a visit to Crown, we may check in on you from time to time. Breaks in play are encouraged and if your visit spans 12 hours, we will ask you to take a 12-hour break. 
“One of these friendly conversations to check in is just a simple way for our team to engage with our guests and promote responsible behaviours toward gaming.”

That all makes sense, but it also promises to have some unintended consequences for the Crown Poker Room once it gets itself back up and fully running – particularly when it comes to tournaments.

How, for example, will the Crown poker team plan out the Main Event of the Aussie Millions or Melbourne Poker Championship which have traditionally seen their Day 2 fields, and often their final tables, run into the early hours of the morning? Perhaps that will require an extra day or two added to the schedule.

More difficult will be planning multi-event schedules with the new policy practically ending the days of players busting one event in the afternoon but registering for another that same evening. A “12 Hour Daily Visit” policy simply won’t provide enough time for those players to play out the entirety of any evening event flight.

In short, Crown’s poker team is going to have to get creative with their tournament scheduling and exactly what these schedules end up looking like promise to be very different from anything we’ve seen before. 

There are still some details to be confirmed around exactly how the new policy will work in practice and whether the same rules will apply to players at a poker table versus someone betting big on baccarat. PokerMedia Australia reached out to Crown for comment and had received no reply at time of print, however every industry expert we spoke to suggested there was no reason why poker would be offered any special treatment.

And, of course, it doesn’t look like the Aussie Millions will be back anytime soon – PMAunderstands Crown Melbourne has yet to appoint a new tournament director, no surprise given the pandemic-related issued of the past two years.

Even when it does, there will be plenty of other new hurdles to overcome as a result of the Royal Commission’s findings. Potential roadblocks around the transfer of large sums of money, for example, could prove a very real impediment to luring back international players.

It pains us to say, but poker at Crown may never be the same again.

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