MELBOURNE, AAP – Crown Melbourne has waited until almost the last minute to provide requested documents about problem gambling to a royal commission.
It comes as the James Packer-backed group has this week been slammed for its responsible gambling program.
Counsel assisting Adrian Finanzio SC said the inquiry into whether Crown can keep a licence for its Melbourne operations “finally” received the requested papers on Wednesday.
These include a letter, which Crown sent last Thursday, proposing to minimise problem gaming by increasing staff levels and introducing set playing times for customers.
This would see gamblers allowed to play for a maximum of 12 hours in any 24-period, down from the previous 18.
The inquiry also requested minutes from a May 24 board meeting where Crown developed this plan.
Michael Borsky QC, who represents Crown, took umbrage with Mr Finanzio’s suggestion the casino had delayed this process.
Mr Borsky said Crown had until 4pm on Thursday to produce the documents.
But commissioner Ray Finkelstein, a former Federal Court judge, was not impressed.
“You (could have produced) them within 24 hours if you had a will and a mind to do it,” Mr Finkestein said.
Mr Finanzio previously said Crown’s letter was sent to the inquiry at the “eleventh-hour” ahead of a week of hearings that would focus on the casino’s responsible gaming program.
“The letter promises to stop things that, on one view, should never have been happening in the first place,” Mr Finanzio told the inquiry on Tuesday.
“The changes proposed amount to an implied admission that some practices are inconsistent with the responsible service of gaming.”
Crown Melbourne allowed a patron to gamble for 34 hours straight before making the VIP take a break, the inquiry was told this week.
It was also revealed that currently staff only encourage gamblers to take a break after 12 hours of continuous play.
And while no ATMs are permitted on the gaming floor, Crown Melbourne customers can withdraw up to $200 in cash with every drinks purchase at the bar.
People who gamble at the Southbank casino were three times more likely to experience problem gambling than those who use other venues in Victoria, Mr Finanzio said.
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.
It 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, now in its third week, continues on Thursday with further evidence from Crown Melbourne’s responsible gaming head Sonja Bauer.