Woolworths Facing Massive Pokies Penalties

Tisha Walden | 21 Jun 2019

pokies penaltyIt was recently announced that the gambling division of well respect Australian supermarket chain Woolworths, might have its operating licence revoked. Or at the least, will be facing enormous financial penalties. The announcement comes after an investigation was launched into the extensive countrywide gambling operation. A report found that free alcoholic beverages were being handed out to customers, with the intention of encouraging them to play casino games longer.

ALH Group is responsible for the pokies machines that were investigated. The company is the largest provider of slots in Australia, and is majority owned by Woolworths. An investigation was launched into ALH Group after a whistle-blower brought the attention of regulator groups. The free beverages aspect is only part of an investigation that goes much deeper, and is much more serious.

Compiling Personal Details

The broader allegations brought against ALH Group are that employees secretly gathered details about customers playing pokies in gambling venues. This includes which drinks customers prefer, what their favourite sports teams are, and other personal details. It is alleged that the information is then used to cohere and encourage the customer to spend more time playing games, and potentially losing more money.

The serious accusations are backed up by Member of Parliament Andrew Wilkie. Wilkie is well known for his campaigns against gambling. He provided information that not only backed up the claims, but added further information. He claimed that employees at venues were rewarded for using the data to encourage customers, and were even pushed to hit betting targets on a regular basis.

Disciplinary Proceedings Underway

The gaming regulator in New South Wales has initiated disciplinary action against the ALH Group, and Woolworths by extension. Two pubs in the area, the Westower Tavern and South Tweed Tavern are the main subjects of the investigation. The Liquor and Gaming NSW authority looked into 50 venues pokies in total, with only these two being found in violation.

The regulators have said that interviews were help with multiple employees at each establishment before decisions were made, and even CCT camera footage was viewed at length. Speaking on the matter at the two offending pubs the regulators called the behaviour systematic, and have promised that appropriate action will be taken.

The findings have resulted in renewed calls for Woolworths to exit the gaming industry entirely. At present 330 venues and over 12,000 poker machines can be directly linked to the company.