The nice thing about Crown Casino is that it's also part of the massive Crown Entertainment Complex, so there's lots to do... meaning your friends/family/other half can entertain themselves while you gamble.
Crown Casino in Melbourne is the biggest casino in the entire state of Victoria (actually, it's almost the only casino), and is very conveniently located just behind Flinders Station and within walking distance of most of the city's major hotels. You can stay at Crown Towers if you really plan to spend your entire holiday at the casino, never to emerge into natural light outside, though there are cheaper options not far away, including Crown Promenade Hotel and smaller hotels and hostels on the other side of the Yarra river.
Note: Photo-taking is forbidden in the casino. Lady HengHeng was warned by casino staff but managed to escape with these exclusive photos!
Crown Casino has a nice mix of games and isn't overly dominated by baccarat like many Asian casinos are (though there are sizable baccarat rooms to cater to the Asian clientele). I have found the dealers to be very professional. They know what they are doing and seldom make mistakes. Some are quite friendly, particularly the blackjack dealers. The roulette croupiers and baccarat dealers tend to be a little more reserved.
The interior is enormous and you will get lost amidst the dizzying carpet patterns and the ringing of the slots machines. After my tenth visit I still had trouble locating the change counters and the escalator to the second floor. Getting lost isn't that bad though, since the casino and even its toilets are extremely clean and quite attractive. Different areas are even matched with different styles of background music. The more spacious and posh-looking rooms have more jazzy, mellow tunes, haha. There are 2 floors of games; many of the lower minimum bet blackjack tables are upstairs so don't forget to go up the escalator if you're a blackjack fan.
There are two or three major concentrations of blackjack tables ($10, $15, $25, $50, $100), though they can be found all over the place. Hardcore players will be happy to know that they use at least six to eight decks, stand only on hard 17, allow doubling on 9, 10 and 11, allow doubling after splits, allow no surrender, and the dealer doesn't peek for blackjack.
Some of the blackjack dealers are really funny and a pleasure to play with; others are quiet but always very quick and efficient. There are other variants of blackjack like Crown pontoon, pontoon pandemonium and sports blackjack with funny rules like having the 10s removed, etc, but I don't advise you play them seriously because they all have worse odds than regular blackjack.
Standard blackjack table
One thing that seriously annoys me is the use of card shuffling machines at all blackjack tables. After every hand, the cards used for that round are immediately fed into the card shuffling machine. This wasn't the case before, but in about June this year they placed this evil device on every single blackjack table. This means not only that you can forget about card counting, but also that the days of crazy winning streaks may be over and the game is now much more random.
There are two major concentrations of roulette tables ($2.50, $5, $10, $25) on the lower gaming floor, as well as rapid roulette (electronic version, can go as low as 50 cents per bet) on both floors. The behaviour of croupiers varies though they are generally quite professional. I have come across a few, however, who were very impatient and didn't give players much time to place their bets.
There are both American-style wheels with 0 and 00 and European-style wheels with just one 0. There seem to be more of the single zero variety. I suggest you stay away from those with 0 and 00 since they offer worse odds.
There are two rooms dedicated almost entirely to baccarat ($10, $25, $50, $100). One in particular has different furniture and carpeting from the main area and is more spacious and pleasant. As you would expect, most of the people playing baccarat are Asian tourists. There's rapid baccarat on the ground floor as well which works in the same way as rapid roulette--the dealer stands in the centre while players place bets on their own computer screens.
Aunties and uncles in the baccarat room
There a few other novelty games like the wheel of fortune, sic bo or da xiao, pai gow and some poker variants like caribbean stud poker. If you're there with people who don't gamble much, they tend to be strangely attracted to wheel of fortune and sic bo. There is also a craps table; not many people are familiar with the game which is a shame. And as if that's not enough, there's a sports bar with a big screen and sports betting facility.
Wheel of fortune
Oh yah, there are also slots machines everywhere, mostly occupied by older people.
Ang moh aunties and uncles playing slots
Texas hold'em fans will love the Crown Poker Room, which is located two floors below the casino. Most games are no-limit with small blinds of $2, and there are computerized and automated tables for beginners.
Entrance to Crown Poker Room
Crown isn't as crazy as many of those themed casinos in Las Vegas and Macau. There are no wild animals walking around or fake historical landmarks. Those of us who are used to more gimmicky casinos may find the decor a bit nondescript. However, Crown is by no means modest--the complex's interior is sprawling and quite tastefully blinged out (for a casino anyway).
The Crown Entertainment Complex boasts quite a wide range of foods for most budgets. Outside the casino there are expensive restaurants like the overhyped Nobu. The A$60 buffet at Conservatory is quite good value for money, while the famous cakes at Greco are so-so. Cheaper options also exist in the form of a food court right outside the East entrance of the casino and a pizza stand, as well as good old McDonald's, KFC and Krispy Kreme at the other end of the building.
If you can't even bear to step out of the casino, you can always eat inside the casino itself. The more prominent restaurants are Margo's, which serves affordable pasta, and Shò Noodle Bar, which serves A$10++ soups and noodles. There are bars as well if you feel incomplete without an alcoholic beverage.
If you want to save even more money, there are a few snack bars hidden inconspicuously throughout the casino. If you go up the escalator to the second floor of the casino you can find one of these snack bars about 10 metres to the right of the change counter, beside the $10 blackjack tables. The snack bars serve quick and greasy fare like burgers and fish and chips. I heard the fish and chips used to be only A$2; unfortunately times have changed.
If you are really cheapo and don't want to spend a single cent (or you've lost money, hey it happens to the best of us), you can still order free drinks as long as you are sitting at one of the games. There is usually a lady pushing around a drinks cart with free coffee, tea, soft drinks and mineral water. These drinks are only available to slots players, but if you're really desperate you can strategically position yourself nearby and pretend to be fishing for coins to feed into the slots machine just as she walks past.
The eateries inside the casino usually don't close before midnight and may even stay open until 1 or 2am on weekends, so don't worry about losing track of time.
As its name suggests, Crown Entertainment Complex offers quite a few amusement options including shopping. Those who have won at least A$2,000 at the casino can part with their winnings at Prada and Burberry. Those who have only won A$200 can still shop at FCUK and Witchery.
There are also clubs, bars, a cinema, a games arcade and a bowling alley within the complex. Hopefully these are enough to keep everyone else entertained while you gamble.
If you don't want to spend money on non-gambling related entertainment, take a stroll along the banks of the Yarra River right outside Crown. At night, columns lining the Yarra Promenade right outside the casino spew forth noisy and startling fireballs. These mini volcanoes pollute the air and kill quite a few unsuspecting birds. I'm quite certain the riverside location and fireballs contribute to good feng shui.
The outside world
Classy casino in a nice city with a wide range of games and great service. Pity about the blackjack card shuffling machines.
Other entertainment: 8/10
Address: Southbank, Melbourne, VIC 3000, Australia