Tweed pokies scandal 'reeks of political interference': MP
INDEPENDENT MP and gambling harm campaigner Justin Field has questioned an investigation which alleges two hotels on the North Coast plied pokies players with free alcohol to keep them gambling.
The Tweed Daily News revealed this morning that the Woolworths-owned South Tweed Tavern, along with the Westower Tavern at Ballina, was being investigated by the liquor and gaming watchdog for the "systematic” practice of collecting gamblers' drinking and personal habits to keep them in their venues as long as possible.
But Mr Field believes more venues should be in the spotlight after 50 hotel chains were investigated, but only two were found liable.
He said an internal investigation by Woolworths last year found "22 of its pubs in three states collected personal information on high-turnover pokies players and shared the data amongst its pubs to enable staff to encourage them to increase their losses”.
In Queensland, he said staff gave free drinks to "high-value customers to encourage further gaming activity”.
"Woolworths acknowledged systemic issues amounting to unconscionable behaviour in almost two dozen hotels across three states,” Mr Field said.
"In February, the NSW regulator claimed over 50 ALH Group hotels in NSW were under investigation and today just two have been referred for consideration of disciplinary action.”
Mr Field said the investigation lacked "transparency and credibility and smacks of political interference”.
"There is a clear perception of political interference,” he said.
"We have a long history in NSW of the gambling industry exerting undue influence over politics in NSW.
"These aren't victimless breaches of the gambling regulations. They have real impacts on individuals and families.”
Mr Field said over the course of the investigation, Woolworths had made more than $250 million profit from 1389 poker machines in 53 venues in NSW.
He called on the State Government to explain how Woolworths would be held accountable for the "systematic breaches” and for an "inquiry into the influence of the gambling and racing industries on NSW politics”.