Crown Perth’s high-roller room remained open under a corona lock, in an apparent breach of WA government rules and contrary to company information to ASX.
- A casino director says the Pearl Room opened during the lockdown
- Melissa Smith says she does not know who approved the move
- Crown Perth told ASX that it had ceased all gaming activities
The revelation was made public during evidence before the Perth Casino Royal Commission on Tuesday.
Crown Perth’s director of casino operations for slot machines, Melissa Smith, provided evidence that the Pearl Room, which was invited only, remained open during the recent COVID lockdown.
That lockdown lasted from June 29 to July 3.
Commissioner Lindy Jenkins: Are you aware that the Pearl Room is open at all during a COVID lockdown period in Perth?
Mrs. Smith: In the last period, the main game floor remained closed, but the Pearl Room opened, yes.
Mrs. Jenkins: Do you have any understanding of – and this may be above your grade – the permission that was received for this to happen?
Mrs. Smith: [Shakes head]
In a statement announcing the lockdown, WA Premier Mark McGowan and Health Minister Roger Cook said casinos had to close.
Exceptions to coronavirus restrictions have been granted by WA Police, which has not yet answered ABC’s questions.
Crown was also asked for comment.
‘Crown Perth has ceased all gaming activities’
The company issued a statement to ASX on June 28 stating that game floors would be closed due to the WA lock.
“As a result, Crown Perth has ceased all gaming activities with effect from 12:00 (WST) on 27 June 2021,” the announcement states.
“Hotels, food and beverages (except on the casino floor), banquet and conference facilities will continue to operate in accordance with the temporary restrictions imposed by the Western Australian Government.”
Many Royal Commission witnesses have been questioned as to whether the Pearl Room continued to function during the lockdown, but Mrs Smith is the first to say it did.
Her husband Richard Smith, who is in charge of electronic slot machines in the Pearl Room, was also questioned on Tuesday in a separate hearing on the high-roller facility.
Adviser assisting the Royal Commission Kirsten Nelson: During the COVID lockdowns that had been in place in Perth — so there was one in April-May 2020, another in January-February 2021 for about five days, then three days in April 2021 and then about five days June- July 2021 – During one of these lockdowns, was the Pearl Room open for patrons to come and play?
Sir. Smith: I can not remember exactly, but it is possible that we… no, I can not remember exactly, I’m sorry.
Mrs. Nelson: But is it possible?
Sir. Smith: Is it possible.
Players must apply to use the Pearl Room and have a turnover of at least $ 100,000 each year.
In return, they can gamble larger amounts and get their own hosts who provide them with food, drink and even entertainment, including tickets to sporting events and shows.
With the closure of the Australian border last year and the ban on junkets following Bergin’s request, space has predominantly catered for domestic players.