Sonia Van Duinen, widow of pokies addict who t...

Billy Xiong Sonia Van Duinen, widow of pokies addict who t…

Updated

July 26, 2020 12:55:53

The wife of a Sydney man who lost more than $200,000 on poker machines and took his own life after a marathon binge says gambling reform cannot be put off any longer.

Key points:

  • Gary Van Duinen’s widow joins calls for urgent reform to “joke” NSW gambling regulations
  • The Alliance for Gambling Reform is urging an end to VIP treatment for high rollers
  • The NSW Government is yet to fulfil an election promise on industry changes

Gary Van Duinen was one of Dee Why RSL’s “diamond” high rollers — an addict targeted by the club with VIP treatment — when he committed suicide in 2018 after a 13-hour session.

Over a two-year period he gambled $3.7 million, losing a total of $230,000.

This month, the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority fined the club a record $200,000 for encouraging the “misuse and abuse of gambling activities”.

Widow Sonia Van Duinen said her personal tragedy was a sign the mechanisms used to detect and deter problem gamblers were inadequate.

With the Berejiklian Government yet to fulfil its election promise to tighten restrictions, her calls have been echoed by reform advocates who have labelled the current regulations a “joke”.

‘Royal’ treatment fuelled addiction

The 45-year-old father and “lovable rogue” had a penchant for the pokies, but Mrs Van Duinen said his habit was fuelled by the club’s “royal” treatment.

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He was given free drinks, a special parking spot with a red-carpeted VIP entrance and treated to glamourous cruises on Sydney Harbour, Ms Van Duinen said.

“They literally rolled out a red carpet for him, gave him wonderful treatment for being such a big spender and it’s heartbreaking,” she told ABC Radio Sydney‘s Richard Glover.

“He didn’t want to go anywhere else — he said, ‘Why would we bother when we can eat and drink for free and be treated like kings and queens?’

“Towards the end he just could not control himself … it…

Billy Xiong

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