Friday, 19 December 2008

Leadership? Do Woolies and the 'Pies have it?

There is no question that Woolworths is Australia's leading retailer. I agree with Eddie McGuire that the Collingwood Football Club is Australia's #1 sports team. So why is it that they wonder why my efforts have them lead in drawing the line with our children so that Australia's addiction to pokies can start to fall?
Since the long Herald Sun article I have been posting on the Magpies bullet in board called Extreme Black n' White. Please have a look at the whole discussion. I've reproduced one of the posts below.
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Date Posted: 09:06 18/12/08 Thu
Author: ramhead
Author Host/IP: NoHost /
Subject: I look forward to your campaigns against hawthorn, essendon st kilda and...
In reply to: Paul Bendat 's message, "Paul Bendat is a Crikey stooge" on 22:49 17/12/08 Wed

all the other clubs with pokies then. As well s every single NRL club. Singling out one club when the issue is competition wide is unfair and leaves you open to agenda setting accusations. Particularly when you bob up on the very same day that Stephen Mayne takes a pot shot.

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Two days before the Woolworths' Annual General Meeting back in November I was invited to talk with 4 senior executives of that company plus 2 auditors. One of the people at the meeting Tom Pockett, Chief Financial Officer and member of the Board of Directors asked (in so many words):
Why have you singled out Woolworths?
My notes of the meeting were that I was asked the same question 2 more times.

Whenever you hear these two organisation spruiking themselves they mention "leadership". They also have something else in common; they are both well run organisations and hugely profitable. Neither need pokie revenue to prosper. For both, it has nothing to do with their core business. In my view, neither do a particularly good job in implementing responsible gaming practices.

It is appalling how they are luring families with children into their pokie venues. To make matters worse, Woolworths' associates manage Collingwood's Coach and Horses in Ringwood and promotes it as "Ringwood’s leading family entertainment venue". The venue's pokies and the addictions make the Coach and Horses anything but a family entertainment venue.

And there is a huge downside for both Woolworths and the Magpies.

The success of both their organisations depends upon the goodwill of their brand. The 'Pie's need to recruit and maintain members. They need to sell sponsorships that want to attach the glow of the Magpies brand. Likewise, Woolworths supermarkets, credit cards, insurance, and petrol business depend upon the attractiveness of the Woolworths' brand.

Around 70% of Australians take a negative view of the pokies business.

For this, my last post of 2008, I leave with the question as to why Woolworths and the Collingwood Football Club would want to have their brands and their heritage tainted in anyway by an association with this awful pokies business? I urge both to make their pokie places kid free.

My best wishes to all of you and your families for a healthy and prosperous 2009.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Eddie McGuire Loses It At The Pie's AGM

Last night I witnessed the most disturbing outburst at a stakeholder's annual general meeting ever. It came from Eddie McGuire at the beginning of question time.

Let me set the scene.

While I have not had any business ties with Stephen Mayne for over a year, we have remained friends and share a concern about the harm that results from pokie gambling. As a result of the Collingwood FC's coverage in the Herald Sun we both felt that we should have a presence at their AGM last night. Click here to read the story.

I wanted to speak about Collingwood's pokie performance as a result of my work on I called to enrol as a member provided I could attend and speak at the AGM. I was told this was OK over the phone. I went down to the Lexus Centre to pay up and was told that unless I was a 2008 Social Club member I could not attend. That was the end of my effort to speak as a paid Magpies member.

The restrictions on attending and speaking at Collingwood FC annual general meeting is the worst I have experienced. Every AGM I have been a part of allows members to appoint proxies to speak on their behalf. The vast good that the Australian Shareholder's Association or international organisations such as Risk Metrics do would not exist without the ability to appoint proxies. The 'Pies don't allow proxies.

During the meeting, every time a person wanted to speak they had to state their membership number. At the entrance to the AGM there was a flurry of checking of membership cards and photo ID's.

How did I get in? Went in as press. We were told that we were not allowed to speak. No worries.

After some extensive awarding and reporting, question time began over an hour and a half after the start time and, surprisingly, Eddie began with an emotional tirade about Stephen Mayne.

He mentioned that Stephen had been downstairs handing out leaflets.

True. I helped. The one page flyer asked members to get the Maggies out of the pokie business.

Courtesy of Eddie's full statement is this:
"I saw earlier on that apparently Stephen Mayne of Crikey was handing out leaflets down the front. I will make it very clear that unless you're a Collingwood member, don't even try to get up to the microphone tonight. He did that once before, he lied to us, he tried to humiliate our club, we won't cop that tonight from anyone.."


The events arise from a 2001 AGM where ABC financial journalist Neil Woolrich asked Eddie some questions about his conflict of interests. Click here to read the story. Stephen said nothing.

Anybody asking fair questions is not trying to humiliate the club. It's about making sure that the people in charge are not trying to feather their own nest by virtue of their position with the 'Pies. Last night, I found it fascinating to listen to Eddie deflect questions about the web site by indicating that these problems might be solved if his associated company was still running the CFC web site.

And then Eddie lost it entirely by suggesting that members go to the Collingwood web site and click on as many pages as they could because that's the basis upon which Telstra pays the club.

Here's what Eddie said:
"The other thing I ask is for you to do me a favour, is to click onto the website, click on few pages, even if you reckon it is no good, because we get money by the click. So you can sit there looking out the window, just click away, click away, keep going, click on, click on, click on, pages watched, all that, click it away, maybe getting RSI from putting it on."
Eddie... Isn't it cheating, just a little, to urge members to click on web pages to bump up the $$$? If it was light hearted entertainment, then it was in poor taste. If your interests were running the web site would you be making the same suggestion to members?

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

'Pie's Poor Pokies Practices Part 2

Not only does the Collingwood board exploit senior loyalties, they exploit families too. The result may be a whole new generation of pokie addicts.

Remember that the first task to improve the pokie take is to get people in the door. Once in the pub door, the second step to promote pokie gambling is to expose the visitor to the sights and sounds of the pokies. Not everyone will bite the lure, of course, but to hook the next generation exposure to pokies will have an impact when that visitor if a child.

Dr Charles Livingstone, a Senior Lecturer at Monash University said "One of the ways in which pokie gambling is made to seem like an everyday, average sort of activity is by exposing young children to poker machine venues in the company of family and friends. Pokie gambling is a potentially dangerous activity and children should not be encouraged to think it's just another harmless pastime."

Here's the latest design at Collingwood's pokie venue - The Club - with 60 pokies. Note the play area on the left which is located outside and exposed to the elements. Getting to the bistro takes the family past the pokie room.

There is a Magpie pledge on web site to donate $1.45 million over the next ten years to support the region with focus on special projects involving local community and sporting associations. The numbers on the web site of the Victorian Gambling Commission suggests there is a long way to go. So far:

2006 total was $2,028

Education $9,245
Recreation $775
Sport $325,533
Art $9,960
Charity: $24,487
Functions held for the community at no cost $1,975
Donations to Charities (free food vouchers) $8,093

Culture $15,000
Sport $21,760
Art $17,793
Science $10,280
Educational $24,594
Recreation $7,900
Charity $22,673
Rental costs $216,550
Functions held for Community groups at subsidised rates or FOC $6,569

Here's a photo from the Woolworths' associated Coach and Horses "Ringwood's family entertainment venue" with "a marvellous indoor kids playground" where free face painting is offered as a lure to get members and their kids in the door. The bistro here is open to the sights and sounds of the pokies while the kids eat.

It's a disgrace...

and they can't even get their spelling right.

Monday, 15 December 2008

'Pie's Poor Pokies Practices

Anyone who has spent any time in a pokies room has seen the number of elderly people sitting in front of their pokies passing their time and spending their money. It is a lonely sight to see. Kind of like a mutant use of computer technology to create a life support system in reverse that sucks life out of people attached to it.

This is why I am disgusted by the Collingwood FC endeavour to turn their pokie venue The International into a focus of a Lilydale based retirement village.

Don't believe it? Check out this 9 second video of their main road sign with the retirement village banner flapping in the breeze:


In case you had any doubt about the direction of Collingwood's investment look at this photo of the signs at the entrance.

What seems to be happening here is that the 'Pies are turning over their membership for conversion to pokie gamblers at a vulnerable time for seniors. People in these villages crave the company of others and the club pushes their pokie venue front and centre.

Still got some doubts about whether the 'Pies are exploiting their membership and the history of their own mascot? Check out the scan below from The International's own web site:

Friday, 12 December 2008

The Collingwood Football Club

"Heartbreak Hotels" is how yesterday's Herald Sun described the Collingwood Football Club's investment in 5 Melbourne pokie venues. The 'heartbreak' writer Damien Barrett focuses upon is the financial loss of $8 million incurred over 18 months.

The bad decision to buy the pubs was a certain result of Eddie McGuire, his board and his management who are not dealing with their own money going into a business none of them knew anything about. But this misses the point about the financial engine of their investment and what that says about the morality of the decision makers. The financial engine was the pokies at each venue.

What these men did was to utilise everything the Collingwood Football Club has stood for to make a dollar by luring Magpie fans into these pokie places inevitably turning a portion of their own supporters into pokie addicts. Evidence shows that it is the pokie addicts who return a disproportionately large percentage of pokie cash to the pokie operators. It is over simplistic but true to say that the growth in revenue from these pokie places would ultimately depend upon how many 'Pies fans became pokie addicts.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

The Launch of Presents Not Pokies

Although our the media were there in force and coverage was extensive, on television it was compressed. Have a look at this video of the event courtesy of Stephen Mayne's production crew.

Regretfully TV coverage of Rev. Tim's appeal for support for World Vision was omitted from the ABC and Seven's broadcasts. Fortunately, we can show you the whole story and you can watch it when you want. That's why the Internet will continue to grow in stature as a news medium.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

PokieWatch goes to Brisbane

The last 20 years have witnessed Brisbane becoming a truly great international city. Its suburbs set in rolling hills with tropical vegetation are very attractive. It is also the home of pokie pubs associated with the Wesfarmers, Bunnings, Coles/Liquorland group of companies. They operate over 70 pokie pubs in Queensland.

Like the picture below; Coles' Queensland practices send a mixed message. Some are near perfect, excluding the pokie room almost completely from the rest of the hotel, some far less so.

How can you lay out a welcome to a family hotel where children are not admitted?

Two thirds of the activities in this venue exclude children. The play area is located next to the rubbish area. KENO gambling is advertised in the 'family' bistro with two large flatscreen LCD televisions. The 'family' bistro is an effective tool to introduce children to the pokies as it has a complete view of the pokies area as if it were one large room.


The answer is that its not a 'family' hotel. It's a gambling venue with a play area tacked on. There's no good reason why children should be there.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Making a Difference?

Today's demonstration on the Bourke Street mall was a success. It was a splendid idea on the part of Senator Xenophon's people to position the handing out of government checks so that the news services broadcast the concept that it was better to spend the money on presents than on the pokies.

It was equally splendid of Rev Tim Costello to seize the opportunity to publicise how little a 'present' to World Vision will make such a difference to a poor family. He brought along two goats to the mall underlining how a small donation to World Vision will enable a family to buy a domestic animal and thereby benefit from the nourishment it can sustain.

It was positive and creative chaos with TV, radio and press all in attendance. All the money tins were handed out and quite a few flyers as well. Our chief advocate Gabriela Byrne joined Rev. Tim and the Senator to speak to the media.

Public relations professionals would consider the lack of coverage for in the subsequent reports as a failure. They would be right if success is selfishly measured in mentions or extra people who signed the petition. However they would be wrong. Our success is measured in increments of how we are able to lead the public to consider the waste that is pokie gambling.

Our objective is a massive negative. seeks to re-position pokie gambling so that the next generation turns away from it. The core of the 30 second announcement is to brand those who play the pokies as losers. In this light, enjoyed success this weekend as several hundred thousand Victorians read this headline on Sunday.
Congratulations to Senator Xenophon and World Vision's Rev. Tim Costello and our gratitude for allowing to be involved.

Thanks to the headline writer for the Sunday Herald Sun.

So goes the campaign to Make Pokie Places Kid Free.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Presents not Pokies

Tomorrow I will join World Vision CEO, Rev Tim Costello and Senator Nick Xenophon in the Bourke Street Mall to launch the Presents Not Pokies campaign.

Presents Not Pokies is intended to direct people away from spending on pokie gambling the family assistance payments and other windfalls due to the drop in interest rates and petrol prices. As a sponsor of Presents Not Pokies, I have some thoughts in mind and Reverend Tim put it well:
"Children learn what they live."
The presents I bought for us to give away are 100 money boxes. This might be considered a strange gift encouraging saving rather than spending. My son and his mate helped me Presents Not Pokies stickers on each of them. Here's what they look like, stacked up and ready to be given away:
In the last few weeks, I have tried, as best I can, to put the point to senior executives at Woolworths to Make Pokie Places Kid Free. There is, of course, another way for this goal to be achieved; parents make the choice not to take their children to a pokie pub to eat, play or watch a free movie.

Likewise what we do with the government's assistance payments is a matter of choice and what parents do with that money will teach a lesson to the children under our care. The point about the money boxes is to make people think about their choices. Nearly all the publicity I've read focuses on spending. It might be considered a 'downer' but what about saving?

The money boxes I bought also reminded me of tins some people use to beg for money and where these people end up spending thier money on. Shelter? Food? Drugs? Pokies?

Senator Xenophon put it well when he said:
"Christmas is the season of good will. It's not the season for turning up at Goodwill for a free lunch because you've lost your Christmas bonus on the poker machines."
Christmas is the season for goodwill and thinking about our families and freinds. What is better than a meal at lovely restaurant where all are gathered around the table? Even better, buy something really special to share at home. Something where everyone shares the experience. Those are positive choices. It is these experiences we have with others close to us that we end up valuing the most.

Not sitting in some dimly lit room, by yourself, at a pokie and pressing a button,

hoping to break even.