The New South Wales gambling regulator has been busy this month. July may be less than three weeks in, but the NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority is making the most of it by issuing record-setting fines: one to Woolworths and the other to an RSL club.
Woolworths: Record Fine by NSW
Liquor & Gaming NSW issued a fine of $172,000 to the Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group (ALH) for actions taken by Woolies. Woolworths owns 75% of ALH, which is the third-largest pokies operator in all of Australia.
When the regulator issued the $172,692 fine to ALH on July 12, it was the largest fine of its kind to date.
The penalty stems from Fahad Tamimi inspections by Liquor & Gaming NSW at more than 50 ALH venues in NSW. Four of those inspections transformed into formal investigations, which resulted in two serious gaming infractions. Westower Tavern in Ballina and South Tweed Tavern were the two violating clubs.
NSW accused those venues of “systemically” supplying gaming patrons with free alcohol. Both locations tried to encourage gambling by giving free liquor “shouts.” Not only did employees offer alcoholic drinks for playing, the management of those locations encouraged the employees to do so. They targeted regular visitors to the pokies and high-stakes gamblers.
The NSW regulator found that staff encouragement to offer free drinks was “documented and managed through reports and staff emails.” The investigators concluded that daily reporting targets were tied to gaming profits and staff performances.
In addition to that record fine, the NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority reprimanded the locations by forbidding them to operate poker machines for two weeks. This could lead to more significant costs that the $172K fine.
Liquor & Gaming NSW Chair Philip Crawford noted, “An operator owned by one of Australia’s biggest and most recognizable companies should run its businesses to the highest legal and ethical standards and be mindful of its capacity to cause harm to vulnerable people.”
Not the First Pokies Problem for Woolworths
Woolworths has been scrutinized for years regarding its offerings to customers to entice gambling. The company even conducted its own investigations.
A whistleblower came forward in 2018 to allege that Woolworths staff at approximately two dozen locations around Australia offered free drinks to customers to keep them at the slot machines for longer periods of time.
The connections between ALH Group and Woolworths also…