NSW hits pokie hall with record fine

ILGA has placed extraordinary special conditions to the club.
ILGA has placed extraordinary special conditions to the club.

The club was found guilty of encouraging “the misuse and abuse of gambling” after a member took his own life.

Australia.- The Dee Why branch of the Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL) has been fined a record AU$200,000 (US$139,890) for irresponsible conduct in connection with a player with gambling issues who took his own life in May 2018.

The New South Wales Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority (ILGA) found that the RSL branch encouraged “the misuse and abuse of gambling” by a club “diamond” member in spite of having information on gambling addiction issues and warnings from the deceased’s wife.

The authorities criticised the organisation, a support organisation for men and women who served in the defence forces, for using data tools to identify the man as a “top 100pokie player”, granting him high-roller benefits such as VIP parking, private entry, and a personalised and priority paging service on the gaming floor with reward points despite his debts. The man was also provided harbour cruises not offered to other members.

The authorities argued these actions encouraged the customer to continue gambling.

Aside from the AU$200,000 fine, ILGA placed extraordinary special conditions on the club’s licence. The firm must hire a round-the-clock responsible gambling marshal to monitor gaming areas for signs of problem gambling and to engage with such players, and establish a third-party exclusion scheme that will allow family members and friends of players with gambling addictions to ask for them to be banned from the venue.

By the time he committed suicide, the customer in question had made 170 visits to play gaming machines at RSL, with an average of six gaming hours but occasionally reaching 13 hours. The 45-year-old self-employed builder gambled more than AU$3.7million (US$2.58 million) in under two years, losing AU$230,000 (US$160,873) in total.

ILGA chair Philip Crawford said: “Clubs are sophisticated businesses with lots of data, it’s a short jump to use that data to minimise harm, rather than just focus on who is on what tier of the rewards program.

“Mr Van Duinen died in tragic circumstances. His heavy gambling occurred at a club that was giving him special treatment while failing to recognise his problem, despite having extensive data to do so.”

ILGA is fighting for stricter controls on gaming companies and for gaming marshals to be introduced in more clubs.

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