Shane Dixon: Aussie father-of-three's eerie post and family torments before he plunged to his death after racking up gambling debt on P&O cruise

Shane Dixon, 45, died after racking up a cruise casino debt He had been struggling with tragedies and personal lossesFor confidential support 24/7 call Lifeline 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue 1300 224 636 READ MORE: Insider reveals how high rollers are lured to gamble off Australia's shores 

EXCLUSIVE

In just one week, on May 26, Shane Dixon should be celebrating his 46th birthday.

Instead, the father-of-three's family has been left heartbroken after he plunged to his death from a P&O cruise ship on May 6 having racked up a $9,000 casino debt he couldn't afford to pay.

In recent years, Shane had grappled with a series of personal tragedies and setbacks, including health issues, family deaths and the breakdown of his marriage, which led to him being estranged from his children.

According to Shane's brother Scott, who spoke to Daily Mail Australia, the casino debt was the straw that broke the camel's back.

'He had a partner who he divorced. He was unable to see his kids. We lost our dad. It was a lot for him,' Scott Dixon said.

'[After he lost the money] his brain would have been going 100 miles an hour. He probably thought, "F*** it, I can't afford it."'

Shane Dixon, 45, is pictured with his mother Sue. The pair were taking a holiday together when he fell to his death

Shane Dixon, 45, is pictured with his mother Sue. The pair were taking a holiday together when he fell to his death

The 45-year-old's death has cast light on the questionable tactics used on casinos aboard luxury liners to incentivise passengers to spend big - including allowing players to run up bills on their rooms and offering free drinks and vouchers.

Several others have since come forward to share similar stories, including claims they were told self-exclusion was not an option or were interrogated and held onboard by staff after being unable to settle their bills.

While Shane's family say several factors in his personal life contributed to his poor mental health, they believe the gambling debt tipped him over the edge.

Growing up in Campbelltown, in Sydney's western suburbs, Shane was the eldest of five children to parents Susan and Wilbur.

Tragically, his youngest brother Dylan, who was a twin, died in 1993 at just three months old, leaving an indelible mark on the family.

In 2009, the family lost Wilbur at the age of 54, which had a profound effect on Shane, who described his father in a poignant social media post last year as the 'strength of the family' and 'life of all parties'.

Adding to the family's pain, Shane, in recent years, had been experiencing heart problems and his younger brother Scott was diagnosed with a terminal illness, which he is still fighting.

Shane was also struggling with the breakdown of his marriage, frequently venting his frustration online about how he was unable to see his children.

Shane's family said the father-of-three had lost thousands of dollars in the cruise casino on the night he died

Shane's family said the father-of-three had lost thousands of dollars in the cruise casino on the night he died

'F***ing sucks.. Now over 12 years [and I have] not seen or herd [sic] from my kids,' he wrote in September.

'Not knowing how they [are] doing or if they [are] going through hard times just sucks.

'The only happy [thing about] New Years is that hopefully 1 year will be happy for me when I meet my kids again,' he wrote on December 31, 2022, alongside a picture of his three young children.

'12 years to not see or hear from you.. Breaks me every year but I stay strong, hoping one new year my dreams will come true.'

Sadly, Shane never got the chance to repair his fractured relationship with his children. His eldest daughter turned 19 just three days after his death.

In an eerily prophetic post, the Sydney truck driver last year described how May was his 'hardest month'.

'My hardest month May is just around the corner,' he wrote in April 2023.

'[It's] not only my birthday, but my eldest girl turns 18 that I have not seen or heard from in over 12 years. My boy turns 15 and [it's] the same situation as my girl. [It's] my dad's birthday also who passed away in 2009 [at] only 54 years of age.

'So yes, to me life is f***ed. [So] don't judge me or let's just swap shoes.'

Several others have since shared stories of similar experiences onboard P&O cruises. Pictured above is the letter one passenger received after he racked up a $5851 bill by gambling on credit

Several others have since shared stories of similar experiences onboard P&O cruises. Pictured above is the letter one passenger received after he racked up a $5851 bill by gambling on credit

Pictured: A P&O bill showing how the casino charges are charged back to rooms as a bill, rather than passengers paying up front

Pictured: A P&O bill showing how the casino charges are charged back to rooms as a bill, rather than passengers paying up front

Pictured above is a voucher given to that was given to a player who spends big onboard P&O casinos

Pictured above is a voucher given to that was given to a player who spends big onboard P&O casinos

Despite his hardships, Shane seemed excited for the holiday on the P&O cruise liner. His mother had saved up and paid for the trip - his first-ever cruise - as a treat for the pair.

In the lead up, Shane posted photos of his new passport on social media writing he was 'so f***ing happy' before later sharing images of him smiling in Sydney Harbour as he waited to board the Pacific Adventure.

According to family, Shane lost $5,000 in the casino on the first night while being lavished with free drinks, a $750 play voucher and a ticket for a future cruise.

Scott said Shane borrowed $5,000 from their mother to settle the bill, but after he went back the following night and lost a further $4,000.

Just two hours before the ship was due to be back in Sydney, and the last bill would need to be finalised, he plunged overboard.

Witnesses who were with Shane just hours before his death recalled that he was 'full of energy and happy' and nothing seemed amiss.

Now, as the family come to terms with their grief, they have been left to question how Shane was let down by the company's gambling operations.

'Mum said they were having fun, everything was good,' Scott said previously.

'But the casino - they use all of these incentives to tell people, "Come back, come back".'

How do cruise casinos operate?  

In Australia, strict laws govern how gaming providers can advertise gambling. Promotions such as giving patrons free booze, gambling vouchers and prizes to encourage them to spend are all banned.

However, cruise ships can bypass these regulations by opening their casinos once their ships hit international waters - which start 12 nautical miles from a country's shoreline.

Legal expert Captain John Kavanagh, from Brisbane's Pacific Maritime Lawyers, said regulating maritime law is a difficult and complex field.

'There are two pieces to consider in the law of the sea - the waters the ship is travelling in and the country that owns the vessel,' he told Daily Mail Australia.

'A ship must be registered to a country, otherwise it is considered a pirate. That country's law applies to it. If a ship enters another country's waters, that country's law also applies to it.

'But as soon as you are 12 miles offshore, it is hard for foreign laws to be regulated.'

Pictured: The Pacific Adventure sailing into Sydney on May 6 after being delayed due to an ocean search for Shane Dixon

Pictured: The Pacific Adventure sailing into Sydney on May 6 after being delayed due to an ocean search for Shane Dixon

Captain Kavanagh said a ship operating in Australian waters would be governed by both national and respective state legislation.

However, once a ship enters international waters, Captain Kavanagh said the laws of the country that owns the vessel take effect.

'As soon as you are 12 nautical miles offshore, it is hard for foreign laws to be regulated,' he said.

'If you are outside that zone, and you are registered somewhere else, those are the laws that apply you - not the waters you are travelling near. This is how the maritime legislation is structured and it is universal.'

Under these rules, P&O's British parent company, Carnival, must abide by UK gambling practices in their casinos.

Captain Kavanagh said, in this circumstances, it would be up to British regulators to ensure licencees are abiding by national gaming guidelines.

Daily Mail Australia has contacted the UK Gambling Commission for comment.

P&O responds 

Shane's death has sparked calls for government intervention into gambling practices in international waters.

Speaking to Daily Mail Australia earlier this week, CEO of the Alliance for Gambling Reform Carol Bennett said the cruise ship operator had failed to provide Shane with an adequate duty of care.

Several others have come forward with similar stories about being offered incentives to gamble, being unable to enter a self-exclusion program (despite the company saying it had one on its website), and being held onboard and interrogated over bills.

One person also claimed he was urged by staff to keep gambling to recoup lost funds after he went to them seeking help over his exorbitant bill.

Earlier this week, a P&O spokeswoman said it would be inappropriate to comment on Shane's death as the matter is under investigation from the coroner.

The spokeswoman also said in response to the other allegations: 'P&O Cruises Australia appreciates the feedback from guests.'

'We have Responsible Gaming Conduct Policies on all P&O ships and take those policies seriously.

'We encourage any guest with concerns to get in contact with us so that we can investigate.'

However, when sent a lengthy list of questions on Thursday, including to layout the company's responsible gaming conduct policies, Daily Mail Australia did not receive a response.

For confidential support 24/7 call Lifeline 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue 1300 224 636

For gambling support 24/7 call the National Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858

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