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ABC News

Victorian government introduces reforms for Crown Melbourne amid calls for pre-commitment rules to apply statewide

Crown Casino will have to adhere to the new measures if it wants to keep its licence. (ABC News: Darryl Torpy)

Punters at Melbourne's Crown Casino will be forced to pre-commit to losses and time spent on poker machines as part of reforms introduced in the wake of damning royal commission findings.

The 12 measures are the latest from 33 recommendations from the Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and Licence, which found an  "alarming catalogue of wrongdoing" at Victoria's only casino.

The Melbourne casino — Victoria's largest single-site employer — has been able to hold onto its license as long as it meets a number of conditions, including implementing the reforms.

US firm Blackstone recently completed an $8.9 billion takeover of Crown's operations in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

Under the legislation being introduced in Victoria today, all Australian residents at the casino must set a maximum limit on how much they are prepared to lose before they begin using pokies.

Victorians lose more than $1.5 billion at the pokies each year. (ABC News)

"This is a world-first in a suite of reforms," Gaming Minister Melissa Horne said.

Technology to enforce the limit and track the time and money spent does not yet exist.

The government will give Crown until the end of 2023 to have the mandatory pre-commitments in place, with the minister saying "it needs to be fully rolled out by no later than the end of 2025".

The limit will be entirely up to the patron.

Calls for pre-commitments to apply statewide

Chief Advocate at the Alliance for Gambling Reform Tim Costello welcomed the news. 

"This is a really a historic day for the state government and therefore the people of Victoria — winning back power over Crown, that has completely dominated the landscape and dominated the terms of engagement," he said.

Gambling Advocate Tim Costello says the move gives gambling patrons better tools to avoid harm. (ABC News: Jeremy Story Carter)

He said he believed the pre-commitment system should apply to all pokie venues in the state.

"You can link the same system for pre-commitment to all pokies through clubs and hotels in Victoria so simply … the greedy pubs and clubs with pokies have fought this for more than a decade," he said.

Crown Melbourne has about 2,600 pokie machines, about 10 per cent of the 26,321 spread across the state. Government statistics show more than $1.5 billion is lost on the pokies across the state each year.

Monash University gambling researcher Charles Livingstone said Victoria had an optional pre-commitment system for bets.

"We have a pre-commitment system, but it's not a requirement … but we know only a very tiny proportion — less than 1 per cent — of people do [opt in]," Dr Livingstone said.

"The ability to implement that system is already there, we just have to make it a universal requirement so that people who want to gamble on poker machines can do so knowing they have much more control."

When asked whether the limits were likely to be enforced at other gaming venues, Ms Horne said the government was focused on implementing the recommendations of the royal commission.

The minister said there was not a dollar figure or modelling attached to the mandatory pre-commitments to show how much better off patrons would be under the measure.

Other measures to tackle 'money-laundering activities'

Repeated breaches of money-laundering rules and links to organised crime were identified at the royal commission.

Under the new measures, the use of cash will be limited to $1,000 per 24 hours in a bid to crack down on money laundering.

Crown Casino employs thousands of Victorians. (ABC News: Darryl Torpy )

The legislation will make it mandatory for patrons to use casino-issued cards and identification to gamble or receive winnings of more than $1,000.

"Again, this is a first for Crown Casino. And it is aimed directly at tackling money-laundering activities," Ms Horne said.

It builds on measures introduced earlier which direct Crown to only hold a single bank account for patrons to deposit funds.

Other new rules include making Crown pay for the cost of regulating the casino, which the minister said was "only reasonable that for the additional level of scrutiny that Crown requires, they also should be able to pay for that".

Any person or business wanting to own more than 5 per cent of the casino operator or its holding company will require the approval of the state's new gambling watchdog.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Crown said the company was committed to delivering "safe and responsible gaming".

"Crown continues to work with the Victorian Government and the VGCCC [Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission] on the implementation of the recommendations of the Victorian Royal Commission," they said.

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