Canada Responsible Gambling Council to review AU ‘Pokies’

RGC Canada reviewing AU slot machine promos and loyalty programs.

Unethical Slot Machine Promos and Loyalty ProgramsSlot machines are generally the most popular form of casino gambling across the globe. Here in Canada, they are the top revenue earners for both land-based and online casinos. But our enthusiasm for spinning the reels pales to that of gamblers in Australia.

Down Under, slot machines are called poker machines, or ‘pokies‘ for short. It’s estimated that 80% of Aussie adults gamble, with pokies being the most popular – and most addictive – form of gambling in the country. They are present on almost every any street corner, available in pubs, clubs, hotels and even supermarkets.

Their accessibility is such that Aussies rarely bother traveling to a genuine casino to play them. Consequently, some would say, Australia bears the burden of the world’s highest rate of problem gambling addiction. Statistics state 3.1% of the adult population experiences anywhere from moderate risk to severe addiction.

That’s got some anti-gambling advocates up in arms; particularly federal independent MP Andrew Wilkie. He is one of Australia’s most outspoken opponents of slot machines, raising his voice again this week to denounce the loyalty program methods of Australia’s largest poker machine supplier, Woolworths.

Wilkie Alleges ALH Spying on Players

Mr. Wilkie presented evidence in Parliament on Wednesday against the Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group (ALH), a subsidiary of Woolworths. He says ALH is overstepping its regulatory boundaries to promote its poker machines. His evidence comes from the testimony of two anonymous whistle-blowers who are former employees of Woolworths properties.

“Woolworths spies on its poker machine customers without their knowledge, keeps a secret database of personal information, and uses that information to encourage increased gambling,” Wilkie told Parliament. “This practice undoubtedly increases revenue, but it’s also immoral, possibly illegal, and directly fosters increased gambling addiction.”

He went on to describe his knowledge of the issue as coming from “two brave whistle-blowers who’ve previously worked for Woolworths.”

Unethical Slot Machine Promos and Loyal Programs

The former employees brought their worries to the MP’s office because they felt uneasy about their potentially unethical job requirements. In the past, they told Wilkie’s officers, engaging with employees was a natural experience. Now, they say it’s a requirement in which they must gather and secretly record data about each customer.

The whistle-blowers claim they must acquire as much personal information as possible. The data includes things like a customer’s favorite alcoholic beverage, pastime, sports team, etc. They allege this information then helps their employers keep customers playing the slot machines.

“We’re actually writing it down so that we can get people to stay for as long as possible, to put as much money into the machines as possible,” the whistle-blowers said.

Canada RGC To Review ALH Practices

The ALH denies any wrong doing in its customer service and loyalty programs. At the same, they are welcoming a review by the Canada Responsible Gambling Council (RGC). The independent, non-profit auditing firm dedicates its time to the prevention of problem gambling, and is already in the process of reviewing ALH operations.

“In late 2017 ALH engaged Canada’s Responsible Gambling Council…to conduct an independent review of ALH’s gaming operations,” said Gordon Cairns, Chairman of Woolworths. He confirmed that “ALH will expand RGC’s review to include the allegations raised by the former ALH employees and Mr Andrew Wilkie”.

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