South Australian senator Nick Xenophon says he will seek a referendum on proposed $1 betting limits on poker machines after Woolworths shareholders voted against introducing limits on the company's gaming machines.
At an extraordinary general meeting in Adelaide on Thursday, Woolworths shareholders were asked to vote on reforms proposed by more than 200 shareholders in a move led by social activist group GetUp!.
The resolution sought to impose $1 betting limits, revenue limits of $120 an hour per machine and prevent the use of gaming machines for more than 18 hours at a time.
But it was overwhelmingly defeated in a shareholder vote, with 97 per cent voting against it.
After attending the meeting, Senator Xenophon said he would be moving a bill in the senate next year for a referendum on imposing $1 betting limits.
"If the major parties are too gutless to introduce $1 bets recommended by the Productivity Commission then we need to give Australians a say," he told reporters.
GetUp! National director Sam McLean said Woolworths had chosen profits over the welfare of Australian families.
"Unfortunately today Woolworths has decided to choose short-term money over morality," he told reporters.
"The fresh food people are really the pokies people and Woolworths is happy to hurt Australian families."
About 20 protesters marched to the meeting under police escort, carrying banners saying "gambling destroys families" and "feed the kids not Woolworths poker machines".
During the meeting, Woolworths chairman James Strong said restrictions on Woolworths' pokies alone would not address problem gambling.
Woolworths owns approximately 11,000 poker machines, equal to about six per cent of machines in Australia, he said.
"The debate today is around a motion that will apply only to Woolworths in isolation, without delivering a broader social benefit to the community who would continue to have access to unrestricted machines," Mr Strong said.
"Our measures to promote responsible gambling are above and beyond that required by regulation and we take pride in being, we believe, a leader in promoting responsible gambling."