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Woolies shareholders say no to pokie limit


Woolworths shareholders have voted overwhelmingly against imposing limits on the company's poker machines, but activists say their campaign for poker machine reform is far from over.

More than 200 Woolworths shareholders, led by social activist group GetUp!, had been seeking to impose $1 betting limits and revenue limits of $120 an hour on each of the supermarket giant's 11,000 gaming machines.

But the resolution was overwhelmingly defeated with 95.3 per cent of shareholders voting against it.

Chairman James Strong said singling Woolworths out for poker machine reform would not work because problem gamblers would just go to other hotels, clubs or casinos which did not have the same limits.

He also said focusing entirely on Woolworths was unfair, especially as the supermarket chain was a leader in promoting responsible gambling.

"You're actually picking on the most responsible operator in Australia and you're not picking on anyone else," he said.

But shareholder Karen Throssell from Melbourne, whose partner committed suicide after racking up more than $250,000 in gambling debts, said if Woolworths really was a leader in responsible gaming then it should set an example for the rest of the industry.

"I think they're not the corporate citizen they would like us to believe," she told reporters.

"I think they're amoral.

"I think it was a very small minimal reform and I think I'm really, really disappointed."

South Australian senator Nick Xenophon, who attended the meeting, said he would be putting a bill to parliament to try to implement a referendum to introduce $1 betting limits.

GetUp! National director Sam McLean said his organisation would continue to lobby Woolworths for poker machine reform.

"We will continue to take action that targets Woolworths and continue to make sure that Woolworths customers across the country are well aware that Woolworths has chosen not to be the fresh food people but the pokies people," he told reporters.

During the annual general meeting, which followed the poker machine reform vote, Woolworths chief executive Grant O'Brien said the retailer had a pleasing start to 2013 and maintained its expectation of a rise in net profit from continuing operations of between three and six per cent for the year to June 30, 2013.