The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie will release documents about Sydney’s Colyton Hotel, a Woolworths-owned poker machine venue which has been exposed by a whistleblower for using predatory tactics and pressuring staff to encourage patrons to gamble more, including by requiring staff to spy on each other.
At the centre of the allegations is the Woolworths “Walk the Floor” program which requires staff to spy on staff in other venues in order to increase poker machine losses. Staff say the program is operated by Woolworths each year at tax time when vulnerable patrons have access to cash.
“This sort of behaviour is clearly immoral,” Mr Wilkie said. “Staff are being put in the awful position of having to help fleece enormous amounts of money – more than $2 million – every week from poker machine players. And doing it at tax time is especially exploitative as it’s the only time of year many people can expect to have a lump sum of cash.
“There’s no doubt that this is predatory behaviour. The staff are told to favour poker machine users over other patrons. They’re told to do everything they can to keep people at the machines including by serving drinks to them. The focus on this is so acute that the amount of money being put through the machines is measured down to the hour, as evidenced by the documents I’m releasing today.
“What’s more disturbing is that we know roughly 40% of the money lost on poker machines is lost by people with a gambling addiction, so that’s close to a million dollars every week straight from the pockets of addicted people. No wonder this whistleblower has felt the need to speak out.
“After I revealed serious misconduct at Woolworths poker machine venues earlier this year, the company conducted two internal reviews and we were led to believe that things were going to change.
“But clearly as this latest revelation shows, these predatory tactics remain widespread. And this behaviour isn’t just limited to one hotel, as the “Walk the Floor” program reveals.
“To be clear, Woolworths isn’t doing anything illegal, but that speaks volumes about the sad state of poker machine laws not just in NSW but across the country.
“It seems that Woolworths is being misled by ALH Group about exactly what goes on in these venues. I call on the management of Woolworths to stamp this behaviour out immediately if they are genuinely committed to reducing the harm caused by their poker machines.
Woolworths owns five poker machine venues in Tasmania.
Authorised by Andrew Wilkie MP 188 Collins St Hobart
Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie