Staff at Woolworths-owned pubs across Australia have been accused of spying on gamblers to try and get them to stay longer and spend more.
Federal MP Andrew Wilkie, an outspoken anti-pokies campaigner, told parliament on Wednesday he has obtained screenshots of data being kept on poker machine users, which has been shared among the Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group’s (ALH) 400 pubs.
“This isn’t just basic information,” Mr Wilkie said.
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“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.”
He claimed staff were rewarded with gift vouchers for meeting betting targets.
One former staff member, named Carl, confirmed to Macquarie Radio they were rewarded if they met betting targets.
“If the whole team worked very well and kept customers happy, comfortable and in the area and got customers to sit their longer and play longer then they would get rewarded more,” he said.
Mr Wilkie said he was disgusted by the revelation.
“This practice undoubtedly increases revenue but it’s also immoral, possibly illegal, and directly fosters increased gaming addiction,” he said.
“Today’s revelations demonstrate just how low the poker industry stoops to create addicts. This is disgraceful behaviour and it should be called out.”
ALH has refrained from commenting on the matter, saying it will review the substance of Mr Wilkie’s claims before doing so.
Meanwhile, a new poll has found Ballina voters overwhelmingly support cutting back on pokies in New South Wales’ hotels, pubs and clubs.
ReachTEL conducted a survey of 890 residents and found 75 per cent would support a policy cutting back the number of pokies in the state.
Only 10 per cent opposed the idea while 15 per cent were undecided.
Only 17% would oppose entirely removing pokies from hotels, pubs and clubs.
Almost 80% of people agree that pokies are designed to get people addicted, and just under 70% of people believe that having pokies in hotels, pubs and clubs has an overall negative impact on the community.
The new data was released as The Byron Bay Beach Hotel stops running its own pokies – a move supported, or strongly supported, by 83% of Ballina locals.
The Beach Hotel’s operator, Elke Van Haandel said they were looking forward to shutting the door on the gaming room once and for all.
“When that door re-opens, the space will be a great new locals bar showcasing the best of Byron’s amazing food and drink.”
“We’re proud to be running the kind of pub that makes a great contribution to the community, and this move is just the start”, she said.