Woolworths admits to recording details on pokies customers

Woolworths admits to recording details on pokies customers

Disciplinary action has been taken against staff members working in more than 20 Woolworths-owned poker machine venues after an inquiry has revealed that they have been spying on pokie customers.

Staff members working at 20 Queensland hotels, as well as other venues, were even found to have been offering free drinks to those punters considered to be “high value” to try to boost the company’s profits – a clear contravention of the commitment the brand has made to promoting responsible gambling. The Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group (ALH), the poker machine arm of the Woolworths brand, has sprung into action. It has responded to the inquiry’s findings by disciplining and firing several staff members for the breaches.

Anti-Pokies Campaigner Raises Allegations

In February 2018 Andrew Wilkie, Australian parliament member and anti-pokie campaigner, raised allegations that staff members at ALH were not only spying on pokies customers but were physically recording details about them. Whistleblowers had claimed that staff members were detailing all kinds of personal information about regulars, down to the football teams they supported. It was alleged the data were then being used to persuade punters to stay at the machines for longer and to spend more money on their gambling.

A Full Investigation

Once the allegations had been brought to light, Woolworths took steps to carry out a full investigation into the claims, and, this month, the inquiry was released.

Woolworths has now been forced to admit that, over a period of six months in 2017, some of the brand’s Queensland venues, as well as a few bars across South Australia and New South Wales, were operating a customer service program that allowed ALH employees to record detailed information relating to gaming customers. A statement from ALH reported that the actions were below the company’s expectations of staff behavior and in direct opposition of its policies. The agency promised disciplinary action for the staff and management involved, as well as promised to improve staff training and create better customer privacy strategies.

Customer Monitoring Techniques Contrary To Woolworths’ Values

Customer Monitoring Techniques Contrary To Woolworths’ ValuesDuring the course of the investigation, it was discovered that high-value pokie customers were being showered with extra benefits, such as complimentary drinks and better customer service. These practices go against the responsible gaming policies that lie at the heart of Woolworths’ business.

Gordon Cairns, chairman of Woolworths, reiterated the company’s serious stance on community responsibility and reassured the public these practices have now been stopped. He also promised that action would be taken to rectify the situation based on the findings of the inquiry.

Gambling Regulators Encouraged To Take Action

Despite the promises from the Woolworths’ chairman, Wilkie remains unsatisfied with the outcome of the inquiry. The politician is now pushing for the supermarket group, one of Australia’s biggest pokie operators, to get rid of all its machines. In a statement, Wilkie pointed out if ALH were so keen to protect the reputation of its company, it should leave the gambling industry altogether, or, at the very least, minimize harm to punters by putting in place mandatory precommitment and maximum bets of just $1.

Wilkie isn’t content to stop his campaign with Woolworths either. He has now encouraged other companies to follow the brand leader’s suit and carry out their own comprehensive investigations into allegations as soon as they arise.

The Tasmanian politician has also attacked regulators for their lack of effective action in the matter, demanding they hurry up and tighten industry regulations so whistleblowers don’t have to do all the work. Only time will tell if they will take any notice.

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