Crown Melbourne to end four-year hiatus from tournament-series poker with April festival

The Crown Casino in Melbourne
Haley Hintze Author Photo
Haley Hintze
Posted on: March 22, 2024 04:06 PDT

It's been more than four years since the last time Australia's Crown Casino Melbourne has hosted a major poker series, though that dry run is set to end in less than two weeks. Crown Melbourne has announced it will be hosting the Crown Poker Series, beginning on Wednesday, April 3, and running through Sunday, April 7.

The upcoming five-day series will include five official events, including an AUD $1,300+200 main event that begins on Saturday, April 6. Four of the five events offer various no-limit hold'em formats and buy-ins, while the fifth is a PLO tourney that starts on Thursday, April 4. Several satellites into the main event have also been scheduled for the series' first three days.

The official series schedule does not mention any prize-pool guarantees at the present time. Being the first major multi-day series at Crown Melbourne in more than four years likely introduced an extra degree of uncertainty regarding series attendance, though good turnout is expected.

Major tournament series shelved by pandemic, regulatory issues

Large multi-day and multi-week poker series at Crown Melbourne were mothballed in March of 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread across the globe. Australia implemented one of the most restrictive policies in the world regarding vaccination requirements and quarantines for international visitors, and the 2021 Aussie Millions festival was canceled as a result.

Other troubles loomed, however, as the then-parent company of Crown Melbourne, Crown Resorts, was under a widespread investigation by Victorian state regulators. More than 30 issues and violations of Victorian and Australian gambling regulations ranged from widespread money-laundering problems to what regulators portrayed as a willful disregard of problem-gambling protections for the casinos customers. With Crown Melbourne's operating license at risk, Crown Resorts sold off Crown Melbourne and other assets to US-based Blackstone in 2022.

Poker at Crown Melbourne took a significant double hit. The poker world's everyday practice of conducting large cash transactions and transfers clashed with more restrictive anti-money-laundering mandates forced upon the casino, and the long days common to major poker events ran afoul of new rules setting caps on the number of consecutive hours a gambler could remain at the tables.

The combined factors meant that the venerable Aussie Millions series remained on the shelf, even as the rest of the casino's poker offerings returned in phases. Cash-game action first reappeared in late 2021, and smaller daily tournaments returned in 2022.

Major series such as the Aussie Millions, however, have remained on hold, a severe hit to a festival that was the Southern Hemisphere's largest poker series for decades. The upcoming Crown Poker Series could be considered a test run of sorts, as conjecture on the Aussie Millions' return for 2025 has circulated for quite some time.