Glass falls from Crown Melbourne building

by Charlotte Lee Last Updated
ATO chases Crown for alleged $100m in unpaid GST

A large pane of glass fell from Melbourne’s Crown Casino on Wednesday morning, shattering on Spencer Street. 

According to reports from 3AW Radio, nobody was walking underneath it at the time.

Self-exclusion policy has room to improve

Gambling experts have lobbied for identity checks and tougher policing of gaming venues as evidence mounts that self-excluded problem gamblers are playing pokies unhindered at Crown casino and suburban pubs.

Through September and October, The Age accompanied problem gambler and gaming reform campaigner Stuart McDonald as he entered and played pokies in venues from which he had banned himself.

The Age confirmed earlier this year Crown installed facial recognition technology at all entrances to its Southbank casino.

Nonetheless, on an evening in early October, Mr McDonald strolled past cameras and security at the entrance of Crown’s main gaming room.

He spoke to staff, changed money and played poker machines for almost half an hour without detection.

Two weeks earlier, he had signed up to Crown’s self-exclusion program, under which he risked a fine of more than $3300 for entering the casino.

In 2017, there were 1,077 identified breaches of self-exclusion orders at crown.

The number of undetected breaches is unknown.

Mr McDonald’s experience at Crown and suburban pubs lends weight to expert criticism that gaming industry administered self-exclusion programs are more about public relations than protecting problem gamblers, the report contends.

“Self-exclusion is nothing more than spin,” Mr McDonald said, who began playing machines in 2005 and soon developed a pokie habit that has cost him many thousands of dollars.

“These programs are completely pointless.”

In September, with The Age, Mr McDonald gambled in plain view in a string of pokie venues near his Preston home, including the Croxton Park and Cramers hotels – both owned by the Woolworths majority-owned ALH Group – and the Junction Hotel.

The only venue to identify Mr McDonald and ask him to leave was Darebin RSL, where he is well known for his opposition to the club’s plan to expand gaming and, notably, where patrons have to sign in.

Self-exclusion program relies on user discipline

All Victorian pubs and club gaming venues belong to a self-exclusion program that was introduced in 1997 and is administered by the pubs and gaming lobby, the Australian Hotels Association.

Under the program, venue staff are supposed to remember self-excluders from photographs.

Those who breach their self-exclusion deed are asked to leave – in theory.

The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation monitors the program but there are no penalties for venues or individual gamblers when breaches occur.

The gambling commission does not collect data on self-excluders from pokie pubs and clubs.

By contrast, gaming venues in New Zealand are penalised for not enforcing self-exclusion.

Hotels association chief executive Paddy O’Sullivan stressed that the Victorian self-exclusion program was a “self-empowerment” model, similar to the Quit program for smokers.

He said the program was based on individuals undertaking not to enter gaming areas, rather than on venue operators “barring” entry.

He said it was intended to “help those with a gambling problem help themselves.”

“Not surprisingly, from time to time, there are breaches,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

“It is not uncommon for a person to relapse as they seek to change their unwanted behaviours.”

Local and international research has raised doubts about the effectiveness of self-exclusion, especially when it relies on self-enforcement and manual photographic recognition.

Use of facial-recognition technology to enforce self-exclusion is common in Canadian casinos, but its effectiveness is disputed.

In recent years, it has been trialled at Crown with mixed results.

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