Crown Casino Sydney’s Opening Sparks Concerns About Gambling Harm

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Anti-gambling groups in Australia have raised concerns about the negative impacts that could arise from the opening of a new skyscraper casino in Sydney Harbour.

On Aug. 8, gaming group Crown officially opened the doors to the VIP-only gaming floors of its $2.2 billion (US$1.52 billion) casino complex in Barangaroo after authorities suspended its operating license for more than a year.

The suspension was made after an inquiry led by former Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin in late 2020 indicated that the gambling group was unfit to operate a casino.

The inquiry found evidence that Crown permitted foreign junket operators who were likely to be involved in organised crimes to do business through its casino in Melbourne and Perth.

However, earlier this year, the New South Wales (NSW) Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (LGA) granted Crown conditional approval for opening the members-only gaming facilities inside its newly built dining and hotel complex.

In particular, the LGA allowed Crown to operate the facilities for a conditional period of between 18 and 24 months, during which the gambling authority would monitor changes made at Crown Casino Sydney.

Reforms to NSW Gambling Legislation

Following the launch of the new casino, the NSW government will introduce new laws in the week commencing Aug. 8, which aim to strengthen the transparency and accountability of casino operators and suppress organised crime and money laundering activities.

At the centre of the reform in gambling legislation and regulations, a new casino commission will be established with enhanced and wide-ranging compliance and enforcement powers that are likely to surpass those of the existing authority.

In addition, under the reforms, casinos will be prohibited from dealing with junket operators.

Epoch Times Photo
A person walks past signage at the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia, on March 22, 2021. (William West/AFP via Getty Images)

However, the changes in legislation do not make social organisations less worried about the potential gambling harm coming along with Crown’s new casino.

Tim Costello, the chief advocate of the Alliance for Gambling Reform, said an inquiry by the Royal Commission had exposed a pattern of predatory behaviour that caused great harm at Crown Casino Melbourne.

“Gambling harm was front and centre of the inquiry. It was clear that Crown failed to protect people and instead systematically sought to exploit them,” he said in a statement.

“With the opening of Crown Sydney, we hold deep concerns about the gambling harm its operations will cause, and we are fearful that the NSW government will not put in place strong enough measures to protect people, their families and communities across the state.”

Social Service Organisations Lack Confidence in Crown’s Changes

Wesley Mission general manager Jim Wackett echoed Costello’s sentiments saying he was not confident that Crown could minimise gambling harm.

“Crown Sydney is pitched as an ‘exclusive high roller’ venue, but with minimum table game bets starting from as low as $20, the casino will be accessible to many more people than they imply, increasing harm to the community,” he said.

“It is just another example of why we can’t trust Crown to administer their products in a way that protects the community.

“To be clear, there’s nothing exclusive about gambling harm–it affects high rollers to everyday punters, and we see the full impact on individuals and families through the services we provide.”

NSW Council of Social Service chief executive Joanna Quilty also said the government needed to do more to deal with the menace of gambling.

“Problem gambling destroys individuals, families and communities, and it’s often the social services sector that is left to pick up the pieces,” she said.

Alfred Bui

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Alfred Bui is an Australian reporter based in Melbourne and focuses on local and business news. He is a former small business owner and has two master’s degrees in business and business law. Contact him at alfred.bui@epochtimes.com.au.



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