Crown Casino urban legends, a reality check and a souvlaki

grey Crown Casino urban legends, a reality check and a souvlakiBeing a caring, loving fiancee *patting self on back* come friday night I take my lovely fiancee out for dinner and introduce her to our rather (in)famous neighbor. As well as wanting Jette to meet our neighbor I want to see if the lamb souvlaki tastes as good to a sober palatte as it did the previous weekend at 5am. Spanning two whole city blocks the Crown Casino complex is the largest casino in the Southern Hemisphere. Flashing her lights just across from our front door she gobbles up people’s money at a breathtaking rate. Through all hours of the day and night we hear people commiserating losses or celebrating wins outside this beehive of greed. it is also the mekka of Crown Casino urban legends.

We start by walking along the foreshore where innocent looking gelato and coffee shops line the Yarra river, I tell Jette some urban myths about the place, “I heard that every bathroom is designed with a back door to sneak out suicide corpses”

“Rubbish” Jette replies unconvinced. grey Crown Casino urban legends, a reality check and a souvlaki

“Yeah, this is what my mate told me, it would look bad to be wheeling stiffs through the main gambling floor…people get desperate, gamble their last then top themselves in the bathroom…” I explain.

“Sounds almost plausible” Jette replies with a bemused look.

“Yeah, and do you know their biggest expense is replacing carpet, the tile carpet that can be replaced a square at a time” I forge on with my unqualified rambling.

“Why the carpet, drunk people vomiting?” Jette asks,

“Nope, when people spend a long time feeding a pokie machine they don’t want to leave so they just piss on the carpet….costs heaps more than renting the land, the council only charges them $1 per year.” I continue as we walk inside and past a serious looking security guard frowning in his suit.

“Now the others I could believe but not the rent, $1 a year for two city blocks, ridiculous…” Jette decides.

The most crazy sounding myth is the only true one, Crown Casino is leasing its land under a 99 year lease granted by the Melbourne council. Despite making $370 million dollars profit last financial year they will pay only $1 per year for the first forty years of this lease, thereafter they will pay market value.

grey Crown Casino urban legends, a reality check and a souvlakiThis sounds absolutely insane, but consider this:

  1. Crown payed $200 million dollars to initially license their 500 gaming tables and 2500 pokie machines
  2. Currently 6500 people are employed there.
  3. Since moving from its initial location across the Yarra in ‘97 Crown Casino has payed over 2.7 Billion dollars in taxes.
  4. God only knows how much the building cost to construct and how many people were employed during this time.

All things being equal I think the Melbourne council has made a smart choice in looking after this cash cow.

Reaching the main gambling hall Jette and I walk past a lady asleep at a pokie machine while trying not to stare at a man shaking invisible flys from his hair. Another man is sitting entranced by a machine, he takes out his frustrations by bashing the buttons at a furious pace. Despite everyone knowing that the odds always favor the house, punters are enticed to believe they can win by loudspeakers announcing a win, lights flashing and the sounds of coins falling noisily onto tin trays.

Everyone feels surrounded by luck.

No natural light enters this place and looking around I notice that there are no clocks anywhere to been seen. For all we know we could be 100 storeys down a nuclear bunker in Nebraska. grey Crown Casino urban legends, a reality check and a souvlaki

“Lets get back amongst the living, this place is giving me the creeps” Jette says just before I voice similar thoughts.

We wade through a mass of zombies and stumble upon a touch screen displaying our entertainment options (3 hotels catering to various demographics, 40 restaurants including the food court, 11 bars, bowling alley, village cinema, laser tag….) we decide to simply find our way to the food court to test out a sober souvlaki.

As we wait for our order I watch people leaving half eaten meals to scurry back towards the lights and noise of the gambling area. My mind wanders, ‘Why not set up a food court out the back serving half eaten meals to homeless people…I wonder if the casino donates much money to charities?…do people come to Melbourne for the casino alone?…How many ambulance callouts would they get?’

I later found the answer to my last question in an online version of The Age;

‘881 callouts in a 12 month period between August 07- august ’09…over one call out a day to paramedic services, Among call-outs were overdoses, sex assaults, gun and knife fights, a drowning and several emergencies for pregnant women’

Crown sure employs a lot of people and draws a significant tourist dollar but can the people providing the majority of this money truly afford it?

Now I am more conflicted about this place than ever.

Evil corporation feeding on the desperate and greedy or useful revinue raiser and employer?

I cannot decide…at lest the souvlaki was as good as I remember.

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