Woolworths-owned ALH Group, Australia’s third-largest pokies operator, has been ordered to pay more than $172,000 after two of its hotels in New South Wales were found to have systematically supplied pokies players with free alcohol, the NSW Department of Customer Service has revealed.
Liquor & Gaming NSW found that Westower Tavern in Ballina and South Tweed Tavern were ‘shouting’ gamblers drinks in order to encourage more playing.
“A system whereby gamblers were given free liquor ‘shouts’ was captured in daily reporting targets and tied to gaming profits and staff performance,” executive director of investigations and enforcement at Liquor & Gambling Authority NSW, Valerie Griswold said.
“Staff were encouraged to seek out regular and high bidding gamblers for free drinks - a process that was documented and managed through reports and staff emails.
“This practice illegally used alcohol to boost gambling and what it does, essentially, is reduce a person’s control of their gambling.”
Under NSW gaming laws, it is illegal to offer or supply free or discounted alcohol to induce gambling. As a result, both venues were fined a total of $3,500, and an ALH manager was banned from the NSW industry for five years.
ALH was formally reprimanded and the hotels banned from operating their poker machines for two weeks. The company was also ordered to pay $172,692 in costs.
The Liquor & Gambling Authority chair, Philip Crawford, said the management at ALH were “fully aware” of what was happening at the venues.
“This system, instead of identifying at risk gamblers with a view to helping combat their problem, targeted them to further encourage their gambling,” Crawford said.
“An operator owned by one of Australia’s biggest and most recognisable companies should run its businesses to the highest legal and ethical standards and be mindful of its capacity to cause harm to vulnerable people.”
An ALH spokesperson told Yahoo Finance the company was currently reviewing the Liquor & Gambling Authority’s final decision.
“We take our obligations for the Responsible Service of Gaming and the Responsible Service of Alcohol in all our venues extremely seriously,” the spokesperson said.
“As a result of that review, we took a number of significant steps to enhance our responsible gaming practices, improve training for our venue leadership teams and preclude the service of complimentary alcohol in gaming rooms.”
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