‘Family-Friendly’ Backfires

The introduction of a “Family Entrance” at Melbourne’s Crown Casino is under attack by anti-gambling activists. They say it is a ploy to lure children into an environment that is exclusively for adults.

Australian anti-casino activist Tim Costello says the designation of a “Family Entrance” at Melbourne’s Crown casino is a thinly disguised attempt to normalize gambling for children, and groom them to become gamblers.

“This inundation and wave is just gingering up the next generation for many who will be problem gamblers,” said Costello, chairman of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce. “The family-friendly concept is therefore just another brick in that wall and it’s very dangerous.”

The gaming company refutes Costello’s claim and says the new entrance, which opens onto the food court of the complex, was actually designed to protect children and “make it easier than ever for guests to discover and enjoy Crown’s dining and entertainment options.” Crown added that a second entrance has been closed to people under 18 because it leads to the gaming floor, according to ABC News.

But Costello isn’t buying it. “Children should never be exposed to gambling. You talk to most parents and they’ll say: ‘I cannot protect my children now from the assault of gambling.’”

Mark Zirnsak, chairman of the Victorian Interchurch Gambling Taskforce, echoed those concerns. “The casino at the end of the day is a gambling facility, it’s for adults,” he said. “To promote the notion that this is where you bring your family very actively I think is very inappropriate. This just strikes me as very poorly thought out on their basis, and pretty irresponsible really.”

The Crown Melbourne Resort issued a statement saying it “totally rejects these ridiculous allegations; in fact the opposite is true… The purpose of this new entrance is to protect under-18s from entering the gaming floor and encourage them to enter the property… via the food court.”

Victoria’s Gaming Minister Jane Garrett was not available for comment, but her spokeswoman issued a statement saying, “The government shares the community’s concerns around the normalization of gambling practices in relation to children.”