The Future of the Aussie Millions Series Remains Uncertain
For over two decades, the Aussie Millions held at Crown Melbourne Casino in Australia was one of the largest and most prestigious live poker events in the Southern Hemisphere. However, the tournament series has faced uncertainty in recent years due to regulatory issues affecting Crown Resorts, the casino operator.
In January 2023, Crown Resorts confirmed that the Aussie Millions had been "postponed for the time being."
While the company acknowledged the tournament's importance to poker history, it provided no clear timeline for its return. This followed months of silence about the Aussie Millions' future after a Crown Poker representative stated on Facebook that poker tournaments would no longer be running at the casino, inclining players to seek action online at GameRules and the like instead.
The regulatory issues stem from a damning royal commission into Crown Melbourne's affairs that found it unfit to hold its casino license. As a result, the Victorian state government enacted stricter gambling laws in August 2022.
New restrictions include loss limits and a ban on using cash at gaming tables, aimed at curbing problem gambling. These reforms were intended to force changes at Crown Resorts before it could regain its license to operate in Melbourne.
Analysts believe the new regulations make it very difficult to hold the Aussie Millions in its usual format. The tournament's massive prize pools and ability to buy in using cash clashed with the new rules. While Crown Resorts said it would explore options to bring Aussie Millions back, restarting the event under the reformed regulatory environment was deemed unlikely for the foreseeable future.
The Aussie Millions first ran in 1998 and grew to be one of the richest poker tournaments worldwide, with prize pools topping 20 million Australian dollars in some years. It attracted thousands of entries from professionals and recreational players globally. Notable past champions included Joe Hachem, Eli Elezra and Jason Koon.
The tournament's disappearance leaves a void for Australia's poker community and the international live poker circuit. Crown Resorts vowed to continue supporting poker but provided no concrete plans or timeline. Unless the regulatory situation changes, it seems the Aussie Millions will remain on indefinite hiatus.
For regulars and the poker community worldwide, the potential permanent closure of the Aussie Millions would be a major loss. The festival grew to become an iconic stop on the international poker calendar for many, along with the WSOP and WPT Series. The main event, with a buy-in of $10,600, will be truly missed by pros like former final table attendees Patrik Antonius, Fedor Holz, Bryn Kenney etc.
Some analysts believe the reforms make it impossible for Crown to comply with its existing business model centered around VIP high-roller customers. The loss limits and cash ban directly undermine the way many wealthy gamblers prefer to play. This raises questions about whether Crown can fundamentally change its operations enough to satisfy regulators, or if a new operator may need to step in to host the Aussie Millions going forward.
If unable to resume at Crown, it's unclear if another casino property in Australia could or would want to take over hosting the event. The financial and logistical challenges would be immense. For the moment, poker fans can only hope the regulatory issues are resolved, new ownership makes the needed changes, and the Aussie Millions is given a chance to rebuild after the pandemic and continue its storied history. But the road ahead remains uncertain as the clock ticks towards 2024.