Gambling marshals on radar in NSW

by Noah Taylor Last Updated
Mudgee sees decrease in poker machines but revenues steady

The New South Wales government is considering a bold new move to curb problem gambling.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports gambling marshals patrolling poker machine venues across the state are being considered, after a Sydney RSL club was forced to install them.

An appeal for the marshalled called Why Just Dee Why is led by Joy Van Duinen, whose son Gary, died from suicide following a poker machine binge at Dee Why RSL in 2018.

She is supported by a whistle blower from ClubsNSW, Troy Stoltz, independent federal MP Andrew Wilkie, and Benjamin Hamilton, a founder of the gambling reform group, Kickin’ The Punt.

Poker machine users should be protected in all venues, Ms Van Duinen said.

“Gary would not have taken any notice of those problem gambling signs in venues,” she said.

“It’s like if you’re an alcoholic or a drug addict, if you’re that far in, you need help.”

Gambling marshals monitor and engage with punters who may have a problem with poker machine gambling, similar to how a responsible service of alcohol marshal operates.

Dee Why RSL paid $200,000 in costs and fines this year after an investigation by the regulator found it offered illegal high-roller perks to Mr Van Duinen.

Investigators found a “general lack” of consideration for gambling harm, ordering the club to employ a full-time gambling marshal in July.

Mr Wilkie said “modest, additional protections” should be rolled out across Australia to prevent some of the 400 suicides per year related to gambling addictions.

“Right now, venue workers can blame everybody else for failing to protect gamblers, but if venues are required to have a full-time gambling marshal, the buck will finally stop somewhere,” he said.

NSW Customer Service minister Victor Dominello said the Dee Why RSL case is a reminder of the damaging and tragic consequence of gambling addiction.

“Responsible conduct of gambling marshals and other arrangements will be considered as part of the government’s review of gaming machine-related harm minimisation measures,” he said.

A ClubsNSW spokesman said they have supported the “concept” of responsible gambling ambassadors for years.

“Discussions with both the regulator and the government have been progressing well and we look forward to saying more soon,” the spokesman said.

NSW regulator issues bumper fines in July

The New South Wales gambling regulator has been busy this month, issuing a number of fines.

Casino News Aus reported in July that the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority issued record-setting fines in July.

Liquor and Gaming New South Wales issued a fine of $172,000 to the Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group for actions taken by Woolworths.

Woolworths owns 75 per cent of ALH, which is the third-larger pokies operator in Australia.

The fine of $172,692 on July 12 is the largest fine of its kind to date.

The penalty stems from inspections by Liquor and Gaming NSW at more than 50 ALH venues in the state.

Four of those inspections transformed into formal investigations, which resulted in two serious gaming infractions.

Westower Tavern in Ballina and South Tweed Tavern were the two violating clubs.

The government accused those venues of “systematically” supplying gaming patrons with free alcohol.

Both locations tried to encourage gambling by giving free liquor “shouts”.

Not only did employees offer alcoholic drinks for playing, the management at those locations encouraged the employees to do so.

They targeted regulator visitors to the pokies and high-stakes gamblers.

The NSW regulator found that staff encouragement to offer free drinks was “documented and managed through reports and staff emails.”

The investigators concluded that daily reporting targets weer tied to gaming profits and staff performances.

In addition to that record fine, the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority reprimanded the locations by forbidding them to operate poker machines for two weeks.

This could lead to more significant costs that the $172,000 fine.

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