Pokies loyalty programs are inducements to gamble and should be banned - Alliance for Gambling Reform

Pokies loyalty programs are inducements to gamble and should be banned

17 July, 2020

Gambling loyalty programs are undoubtedly inducements to gamble and should be banned to save the lives of people like Gary Van Duinen, according to the Alliance for Gambling Reform.

Mr Van Duinen died by suicide after being made a “diamond” member of the Dee Why RSL and being given special treatment to encourage him to gamble. This was despite his wife complaining to the club repeatedly, and the club being aware of Mr Van Duinen’s gambling harm.  

Today the NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority released its orders for the Dee Why RSL to pay $200,000 in fines and costs following Mr Van Duinen’s 2018 death.

ILGA Chair Philip Crawford said: “It was the club’s selection of Mr Van Duinen as a ‘top 100’ gaming machine player, targeted exclusively to receive special ‘high roller’ benefits like harbour cruises and race day events, that was found likely to encourage the misuse and abuse of gambling. This contravened both gaming machines and registered clubs’ legislation.”

Alliance Chief Advocate, the Rev Tim Costello, welcomed the ILGA verdict and fines.

“How absolutely appalling it is to have an RSL contributing to the death of one of their patrons via its own gambling loyalty scheme,” Rev Costello said. “It doesn’t get much lower than that for a club that’s meant to be about supporting the welfare of returned servicemen and women and their families, and it shows just how far the predatory gambling industry will go to addict and exploit people.

“The verdict finding the Dee Why RSL’s so called ‘loyalty’ scheme was an inducement to gamble, and a breach of the Act, is highly significant. These loyalty schemes are widespread among clubs and continue to operate to this day.

“This verdict should put gambling operators on notice to stop luring people into harmful gambling.

“This fine of $100,000 is high compared to previous fines issued, but is still equivalent to little more than a parking fine when you consider the Dee Why RSL makes $43 million a year from pokies. They’ll pay that fine off in less than two days.

“We are pleased that ILGA has ordered the club to set up a third-party exclusion scheme where family and friends of someone experiencing gambling issues can apply to have the person stopped from entering the venue. 

“Too many people die by suicide with connections to gambling harm every year. It’s an issue that is far too often overlooked, and these deaths are preventable. Lives must be prioritised over the unfeeling gambling industry’s profits at all times.”

Rev Costello urged NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to end all forms of gambling loyalty schemes.

“Nothing will bring back Gary Van Duinen, but we can stop something like this from happening again,” Rev Costello said. “We owe that to Gary’s family and friends.

“Just last week the Woolworths-owned ALH Group was fined for "systemically" giving patrons at two NSW hotels free alcohol to encourage their gambling. Yet the retail giant escaped a six-figure fine because of "gaps" in the state’s poker machine laws. The industry has consistent form here, and it must be stopped via effective legislation. They cannot remain a law unto themselves any longer.”

Media contact: Rebecca Thorpe on 0491 209 436 or [email protected]