Saturday, 28 March 2009

The State of Secercy

Last October I blogged about efforts to ascertain the simple fact as to who runs the pokies in each state and in each pub or club.

Click here to read the October blog.

Queensland was the worst. You could not find out who ran the pokies and had to make due with who owned the Liquor License in each pub. It has gotten worse. Now you can't even find out who holds the liquor license.

This is what you get when you try to find out
Click on the image to be able to read the fine print. I've had to take off all my search result links off the Queensland pages of PokieWatch.org.

The state slogan should be changed. Get rid of "Smart State". Even Anna Bligh knows how wrong that slogan is. Despite the recent flooding it's probably still "The Sunshine State" or "Tropical Paradise".

But as far as its regulation of pokies, it should be know as "State of Secrecy".

Friday, 27 March 2009

No Brothel at Shoppingtown

Received a tip that an illegal brothel was operating out of the motel rooms that are a part of Woolworths' associated Shoppingtown pokie pub. So I sat in a car in the car park with a reporter for over 2 hours to check it out. It's not true.

The anticipation was as great as the Cousins - Judd clash happening at the same time at the MCG. What were the implications if Richmond by engaging the troubled Cousins were to return to their winning ways? What if my equating pokies and brothels (both are legal adult entertainment) could be shown to be actually occurring at Woolies' pokie pub?

I brought my camera, my video camera (it has infra-red capabilities) and a set of binoculars. They never got out of my back pack. The reporter brought one of those huge digital cameras. Few pictures were taken.

Mates took the opportunity to make jokes about bringing us donuts.

All we did see is a few blokes, who seemed to be working construction in the area, come and go. A few lights were switched on and off in the rooms. The truest essence of the cliché: "Nothing to Report".

On the other hand, there was plenty to get aggravated about inside the Shoppingtown pokies set-up.
  • The "Kids Eat Free" poster in day-glo green and pink still greets gamblers on their way into the pub along with 2 ATMs set side by side.
  • The main eating area is closed for construction so that all diners must pass by the pokie room
  • The remaining eating area, next to the bar, gets a clear and continual view of the sights of the pokie room.
  • Signs remains promoting parties for children although there is nowhere for them to party without pokie bombardment
  • The pokie room is adorned with signs promoting more gambling
  • Regulation 17 signs warning gamblers about the dangers of pokie gambling, continue to be placed high on the pokie to impede visibility to the gambler.
  • Contrary to their Queensland practices, we watched Woolies/Mathieson pokie room staff serve gamblers coffee while gambling at their pokies.
It's so easy to require pokie gamblers to take a break while sipping their latte or flat white. These pokie operators are so relentless for the pokie dollar they won't even do that.

No brothel but it's still business as usual at the Shoppingtown. No easy Richmond revival either.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Cr Des Hudson's Big Mistake.

Cr Des Hudson needs to apologise. He got it all wrong and he's misleading the people of Ballarat.

Have a read of what he said to the Ballarat Courier:
Ballarat Responsible Gambling Committee chairman Councillor Des Hudson said the region's figures were "on a par" with other regional cities.
He said the committee continued to take a harm minimisation approach.
"People need to gamble responsibly and make sure that their other commitments are able to be meet as well," he said.
"At the end of the day we respect people's choice to dispose of their income as they wish but if they're finding themselves getting in too deep, there are people who can offer confidential professional support."
Click here to read the full article.

Cr Hudson is dead wrong on a number of points.
  1. Ballarat's pokie expenditure was "significantly higher'' than nearby Bendigo. Bendigo would need to raise its level of pokie expenditure per adult by 38% to get to Ballarat's levels.
  2. Unless Ballarat is comparable to the City of Latrobe, Ballarat's loss per adult is higher than all the comparable regional cities: the loss per-adult on pokies in Ballarat in 2007/08 was $804.86. Compare this with Bendigo ($579.12), Shepparton ($641.56), Geelong ($707.43) and LaTrobe ($900.16).
  3. Cr Hudson's harm minimisation approach seems to comprise waiting until the patient is sick before treatment begins. This flies in the face of research and existing practices. What about telling people not to play the pokies in the first place? What about warning gamblers of the consequences of pokie gambling? What about telling gamblers that pokies are programmed so that long term pokie gamblers are doomed to lose?
It's always possible that Cr Hudson was misquoted. In that event, Cr Hudson should call up The Courier and correct the record.

The committee Cr Hudson chairs calls itself a 'Responsible Gambling Committee'. If he was not misquoted, Cr Hudson has demonstrated an appalling lack of responsibility to the people of Ballarat. He should resign.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Oils Aint Oils

Remember Peter Garrett? Radical. Reformer. Champion of the Environment. Perhaps even a socialist. That's the old Peter Garrett.
Meet the new Peter Garrett official endorser of the work of his local pokie club.In case you were wondering, the South Sydney Graphic Arts Club offers kid's parties at $30 a head at their pokie venue club.
Check it out.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

"Relentless" Means Oppressively Constant

While updating the information on PokieWatch.org the web page for the Chelsea Heights Hotel came up. This is a venue with a lot of external advertising targeting families with children and associated with Woolworths/Mathieson. There you'll find this extraordinary advertisement for a family Meal Deal:

Have a look at the food they are eating. Looks like all fried junk.

Here's the kids menu taken from the Chelsea Heights web site. Given the last line of the menu, it is open to suggest that food listed is, at the very least, not ideal health food without the selection of the healthy option.
Kids Menu $8.00
For kids 12 years and under (Includes a soft drink)
Chicken Nuggets & Chips
Fish & Chips
Spaghetti Bolognaise or Napoli
Mini Roast of the Day with Vegetables
Mini Ham & Pineapple Pizza & Chips
Sausages & Chips
Chicken Satay served with rice
Calamari & Chips
For a healthy option Vegetables or Salad are available as an alternative with each kid’s meal (excluding pasta)

Now check out the cute little girl looking lovingly at her father and notice the logo placed on his T-Shirt. Of all the logos to place there, its a Tatts Pokies logo. It's as if he is wearing a Tatts Pokie T-Shirt!

Pokie gambling is not an adult habit we want our children to look up to.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

The Baysie - Two Tales of One Pokie Pub

The Bayswater Hotel is a Woolworths associated venue that promotes that "you, your friends and your family will enjoy". Have a look at this picture from their website with the child play area prominent:
Here's another view of the same bistro. It's from The Baysie's web page called Kid's Club. Some cracks in their family friendly image are staring to appear.

This picture shows the pokie lights visible through an open entrance that forms the visual backdrop for part of this room. It is a subtle reminder as what else goes on at the Baysie and that is pokie gambling. Apparently, its the part of the bistro Woolworths wants people to see. Particularly the people who are interested in their Kids Club. That's one tale. The tale of their family friendly hotel with pokie gambling in the background. Now for the other tale.

In late February 2009, a man was admitted to hospital after being hit on the head with a pool cue, sparking a massive pub brawl at the Baysie. Click on the image below to look at a reprint from the Knox Leader:Another look at the other tale of the Baysie can be found on the MySpace page for this pokie pub. Click here to have a look. The link is prominently displayed on the Baysie's home page. You'll find promotions of Bogan Bingo (even a video with a clip of a girl downing a quick shot), Guitar Hero and Texas Hold 'em Poker. It all looks like good fun... for adults.

I doubt that the combination of adult activity, violent crime and Bee Bop the clown who currently entertains every Friday and Saturday at the Baysie's Kids Club with a bacjdrop of pokie lights makes for a "centre of family entertainment".

Maybe Michael Luscombe, Woolworths' Chief Executive does. He would be wrong.

Monday, 16 March 2009

PokieWatch.org is one year old

A year ago I foolishly believed that simply starting a discussion about how pokie gambling is conducted would make things better. Even more stupidly, I thought that by going to a few pokie pubs, taking some notes and posting them on a web site, the whole exercise could be over in about 20 days. It's now been a year since I visited my first pokie pub.

Since then I have been to about 150 pubs and clubs in Victoria, South Australia and Queensland and have racked up well over 200 inspections. The PokieWatch.org web site now shows about 500 photographs of pokie venue related material.

I thought if I could demonstrate to Michael Luscombe that the practices at his Woolworths pubs did not meet his own standards that they would be fixed. After all, Woolworths is an efficient organisation. By engaging them in a constructive dialogue I hoped that I could also influence them to modify their goal of turning their pokie places into centres of family entertainment.

Wrong again.

While there have been some positive changes within the Woolworths and Coles pokie rooms; there is no ongoing constructive dialogue even though I have now met privately with senior executives of both Woolworths and Coles. I addressed the annual general meeting of Woolworths shareholders; directly and nervously expressing my concerns to the Woolworths Board of Directors.

You can listen to what I said and the responses I got by clicking on the two MP3 files below. They are about 6 minutes each so you might want to grab your favourite beverage before having a listen.





Yesterday blog about the Ferntree Gully Hotel and their Thursday Night face painting is a sign that I have not convinced Woolworths about the benefits of removing children from their pokie places.

The Coles initiative to create a whole web site devoted to marketing Kids Eat Free at their pokie pubs indicates that they are set on introducing the sights and sounds of pokies to children at an early age. More about this soon but you can check out www.kidseatfree.com.au by clicking here.

I think this is going to take a lot longer than I thought.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Howzat?

Maybe I missed something the first time I visited the Ferntree Gully Hotel. That's always possible. To my view, the Ferntree Gully has changed. And not in a good way. Have a look at this photo I took on Friday the 13th at the Ferntree:
The comments I wrote upon my first inspection of this hotel back in March 2008 indicated that this pokie pub was adult orientated with its main bar being quite separate from its pokie area. This remains the case with its Flanagans Irish Bar on Burwood Highway and the large area used for staging rock music upstairs called The Middle.

It is no longer the case with the eating area and bar next to the pokies area. External advertising on busy Burwood Highway now encourages children inside this venue with Face Painting and a Kids Eat Free offer.

In this eating area, children are constantly exposed to the sights and sounds of the pokies on the other side of the open bar. Other than the bar there is no solid partition separating the pokies from the eating area.

On April 11, the Ferntree Gully is hosting two stars of the classic teen music television show Countdown. Darryl Braithwaite of Sherbet and Ross Wilson of Daddy Cool and Mondo Rock will be performing. If you wanted to take your kids to experience what you listened to as a kid, forget it. No one under 18 is admitted. Not even if they are accompanied by an adult!

Check out the 28 second video below by clicking on it.

How can Woolworths reconcile excluding children from a dinner and music show yet, at the same time and in the same venue encouraging their parents to bring them to eat where they will be exposed to pokie sights and sounds?

This is irresponsible management of pokie gambling at its worst.

video