Woolworths chairman ‘very concerned’ about pokie allegations

02 March, 2018 by Andy Young

Woolworths Chairman Gordon Cairns has said that he is “very concerned” about the allegations made by Fairfax media and MP Andrew Wilkie this week regarding ALH staff and how it deals with gamblers in the group’s pubs.

The Fairfax report alleges that a Google drive was shared among the ALH pub network and claims that staff are rewarded with gift vouchers when betting targets are reached or broken and also claims to show notes taken by staff to record what actions they took to encourage gamers to stay on site.

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TheShout reported this week that ALH had responded to the allegations, saying it takes its Responsible Service of Gaming obligations “extremely seriously” and Cairns has re-iterated that sentiment.

“We and ALH take our responsibilities in gaming and the service of alcohol very seriously,” Cairns said in a statement.

“At Woolworths, our priorities and values must always match those of our customers and communities we operate in and this includes taking important steps to ensure we, through ALH, are a responsible gaming operator.

“In late 2017 ALH engaged Canada’s Responsible Gambling Council, an independent non-profit organisation dedicated to problem-gambling prevention, to conduct an independent review of ALH’s gaming operations.

“ALH will expand RGC’s review to include the allegations raised by the former ALH employees and Mr Andrew Wilkie. We would encourage them, Mr Wilkie and any others with relevant information to be part of the independent review.

“We, as an organisation, are very, very clear about our social licence to operate.

“You may have your views on pokies, good or bad, but at the end of the day, if we can have objectively validated that we are the most responsible custodians of gambling, then that will satisfy Andrew Wilkie and the regulators and the general public out there that have concerns.”

Meanwhile ALH Chairman and former Woolworths Chief Executive Roger Corbett has said that while the group is committed to being the best gaming machine operator in Australia he did not think there was anything illegal in the claims levelled this week.

“The law of the land allows poker machines and we are absolutely committed to being the best operators of poker machines in Australia,” Corbett said.

“Like drinking, like eating too much food, people can make a choice. The instances Mr Wilkie is referring to, we believe to be isolated. There is nothing that ALH has done here, that I’m aware of, that is illegal.”

Liquor & Gaming NSW has said it is urgently investigating the allegations, Queensland’s regulator said it is having discussions with ALH and Victoria’s regulator said it is monitoring the issue.