Controversial TV Presenter in Australia Seen Gaming in Pokies Room of a Sydney Pub

Controversial TV Presenter in Australia Seen Gaming in Pokies Room of a Sydney Pub

Roger Corbett has the unfortunate label of being the most controversial Christian in Australia. Corbett is an impressively successful businessman, and is known as the Chair and CEO of Woolworths. He is also a chair of Fairfax.

Corbett is also the chair of Australia Leisure and Hospitality (ALH). His professional position has many Christians questioning his loyalty to his beliefs.

The ALH is the biggest chain of pubs in Australia. There are more than 300 venues, and 12,000 poker machines in ALH pubs. In 2016, Fairfax media reported that ALH clubs and pubs in Australia made about $1.1 billion in net revenues from poker machines alone. The Australian Institute for Family Studies (AIFS) conducted research in 2015 that revealed that “Nationally, regular players’ typical poker expenditure amounted to roughly $228 million dollars over the year.” The institute also explained, “This equated to an estimated annual spend of $1,758 per regular poker player.” This was the largest average amount of money spent on a single gambling activity. AIFS research also revealed, “In 2015, 46 percent of all regular poker players – 60,000 adults – experienced one or more gambling-related problems during the year. That is, their gambling behavior caused or put them at risk of harm.”

Corbett’s Critics

Roger Corbett Tim Costello, the director of the Alliance for Pokie Reform and executive director of Micha Australia, was asked by Eternity if Christians should run gambling businesses. Costello replied, “Well you’d have to ask that man that question. My answer is ‘absolutely not.’ Just as Christians needed to say, ‘well we treat our slaves well and we are kind to them, and we even preach the gospel… No! Slavery is wrong and a Christian could not, should not be owning another person. I personally believe that when we know the devastation and addiction from pokies particularly in the poorest postcodes with over 400 suicides a year – I do many of the funerals who suicide – I do not see how a prominent Christian can head a powerful pokies industry. For me it is unequivocal. I can’t see how a Christian can do that.” Costello went on to assert “It is disappointing that a committed Christian like Roger Corbett is presiding over the world’s biggest suburban poker machine business, particularly given the recent reports about aggressive Woolworths practices targeting gamblers to maximise their losses.”

The Sydney Morning Herald also published a letter to its editor written by Stephen Judd. Judd is the head of Hammondcare, an independent Christian charity, but wrote the letter on behalf of himself. Judd’s views were similar to Costello’s. He writes, “Roger Corbett, the chair of Woolworths subsidiary ALH, says it’s OK to have 12,000 pokies because they are legal. Using that moral compass, I guess we should stay tuned for Woollies to start running brothels. A new revenue stream for the aptly named Australian Leisure and Hospitality!”*

More about Roger Corbett

Corbett has had a long business career. It’s difficult to pick the best deal he’s ever made, but the professional partnership he formed with ALH definitely stands out.

The Sydney Morning Herald describes the deal in more detail, stating “At the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, the then Woolworths boss Roger Corbett enjoyed a chance meeting with Bruce Mathieson, a Melbourne-based pub baron who had been one of the first in the industry to recognize how much money could be made from the pokie machines that were starting to spread through the nation’s local pubs. Corbett and Mathieson cut a deal and created a joint venture, Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group, (ALH), to take over pub businesses in Queensland. ALH bought the Foster’s pub business, and in one move took over 131 pubs around the country.” This proved to be a clever move business-wise, but was also the decision that tied Woolworths to gambling.

*the letter excerpt was taken from the letter “Woolworths edges away from poker machines, published in the Sydney Morning Herald on March 2, 2018.

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