Woolworths admits to profiling pokies punters, encouraging bets with free drinks

Woolworths admits to profiling pokies punters, encouraging bets with free drinks

In response to a Federal investigation, Woolworths has admitted to profiling pokies gamblers and targeting players with free drinks to encourage betting.

The investigation, led by Federal MP Andrew Wilkie, alleges that Woolworths-owned pubs in Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales monitored customers' personal lives and kept tabs on betting behaviour to retain punters on the machines for longer.

The supermarket giant, which owns 75 per cent of pub business ALH Group, today confirmed these allegations, saying that these practices were "at odds with the priorities and values of our customers and the communities where we operate".

The whistleblower investigation revealed that for a six-month period beginning around June 2017, some Woolworths-owned pubs in Queensland had been recording "descriptive information" about its gaming customers.

"The practice also extended (to a limited degree) to a small number of venues in South Australia, and certain aspects of the customers service program were implemented in two venues in New South Wales," said the ALH Group in a statement.

The initial investigation was launched after Wilkie revealed the allegations to Federal Parliament in February.

"This isn't just basic information We're talking things like jobs, times people come in, favourite drinks, favourite football teams, whether they have a partner and what their preferred bet level is," said Wilkie at the time.

Investigators also found evidence that, at some venues in Queensland, staff provided additional free drinks to gamblers, focusing largely on "high-value customers" to encourage further gaming activity.

In response to the findings, Woolworths Group chairman Gordon Cairns said the practices have since ceased and the ALH Group has taken steps to ensure responsible gambling activity going forward.

"The ALH Group has already put in place immediate measures to address the findings of this investigation and to further boost the commitment to responsible gaming," said Cairns.

"In November last year at the Woolworths Group AGM I made a public commitment that we would also be engaging the Responsible Gaming Council of Canada (RGCC) to conduct a comprehensive review of ALH Group operations against world best practice.

"While the RGCC review highlighted that there was a strong commitment within the ALH Group to responsible gaming, we know there is more to do and the measures being implemented are aimed at ensuring that the ALH Group remains a leader when it comes to best practice in this space."

While he is disappointed that Woolworths has engaged in "such scandalous behaviour" Wilkie has commended Cairns' responsiveness on the point.

"Mr Cairns seems to be intent on doing the right thing and the remedial measures he's overseeing will go some way to reducing the harm caused by poker machines," said Wilkie.

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