Friday, 26 September 2008

What's with PokieWatch.org? PokieAct explained.

On Wednesday afternoon and evening I returned to the activity that has consumed my time since March of this year. That's looking and recording what I see at the Victorian pokie venues associated with Woolworths.

The point PokieWatch.org is trying to prove is; if people have a look at what happens inside these places, note down what they see, and record it publicly; then that process, of itself, will improve responsible pokie gambling practices. Since I started doing this back in March, things have gotten better; but slowly.

I started the PokieAct blog because PokieWatch.org is intended to be objective. PokieAct is not.

So here's some opinions about the 6 venues I visited on Wednesday.

2 of those venues are located in strip shopping centres; The Plough in Mill Park and the Bundoora Hotel in Bundoora. Placement of pokie rooms in strip malls is now prohibited under local town planning regulations. If someone wanted to establish these pokie rooms today; it would never happen.

Another venue involved the issue of who runs what.

The Diamond Creek Tavern was recently reported to have been sold by the Collingwood Football Club along with The Beach in Albert Park. No record of the sale appears on the VCGR web site. I had a look at the Diamond Creek because it seems from the VCGR records that Woolworths is an approved associate. I simply wanted to know if Woolies was, indeed, running the pokie room. This way, I could see if they were responsible for doing a good job or not. Yet when I looked at the specifics on the VCGR web pages, this did not seem to be the case.

This was one of the questions I put to the VCGR, that the Minister refused to answer. Seemed innocent to me. Have a look at my post (below) for 22 September. I have not given up yet on this one and will keep you posted.

Finally, I visited two stand alone venues; the Eltham Hotel and the Cherry Hill Tavern. They fit the criterion for what might be a good location for pokie parlours. Neither are in malls nor are they too far away from an established shopping or social centre. The term used to describe their location is "Destination" gambling.

The truly disturbing thing I saw is the way Woolies lures kids into the world of pokies and introduces them to the concept of an easy coin operated win.

At the Eltham, you can see some video I took looking at the machines Woolies puts into the play areas tied to this pokie pub and the absence of adults. At the Cherry Hill, they have a machine called "A Winner Every Time" placed and targeted at children in the play area. At the Cherry Hill, the noise and sights of the pokie room is continually present while you and the family eat. At the Eltham there's a big sign and an open doorway leads to the pokie area when the family enters the pub.

This is nasty.

Keeping kids out of pokie places is ultimately what the PokieAct blog is about.

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