Monday, 22 June 2009

Coles' Pokies Part 1

This blog marks the beginning of an active campaign with the goal of removing children from the presence of pokies and gambling from the pokie pubs associated with Coles / Liquorland and their ultimate holding company Wesfarmers Limited.
The bulk of Coles' pokie pubs are located in Queensland. Click here to see a list of Coles' associated hotels.

Contact with Wesfarmer's began as a result of a unexpected meeting. A mate and his wife had been staying with me and we had talked about my involvement with kids and pokies. He, in turn, has passed the conversation on to a workmate of his who had been a contemporary of mine at university. At a dinner, late last year, that workmate mentioned my activities to Richard Goyder, the boss of Wesfarmers. I obtained Mr Goyder's address and wrote to him on 3 November 2008. Here's what I wrote:
"...I am aware that through your Liquorland division your company operates 85 hotels, mainly in Queensland (the former Hedley group) most of which offer pokie gambling. During my involvement with Goundrey Wines, I was fortunate to able to work closely with the Hedley group management.
Your assistant was kind enough to provide me with your post office box and I’ll take this opportunity to summarise my activities. My focus is twofold:
1. Voluntary prohibition of children in venues that offer pokie gambling
2. Effective self-regulation of responsible pokie gambling practices in pubs and clubs.
Kids in Pokie Places
Unlike adults who are free to make whatever adult entertainment choices they wish, children are not able to make such choices. To this end, I have created a web site to engage popular support for the issue. The website is www.PokieAct.org
Even before it was launched, I have had success with this measure. Tabcorp Limited has agreed that children should be banned from their Victorian pokie venues. For details, please see my blog on the matter at http://blog.pokieact.org/2008/10/tabcorp-agrees-to-make-pokies-places.html
Although in its early stage this campaign has been endorsed by leading national pokies opinion makers, Tim Costello and Senator Nick Xenophon.
You are likely aware that, irrespective of participation, over 70% of Australians unfavourably view the pokie gambling business.
I believe that it would be in your company’s interest to take a leadership position and voluntarily take this progressive step with respect to children and pokies.
Effective Self Regulation
I believe that there greater the transparency about responsible gaming practices, the more effective those practices will be.
To date, my efforts have been largely confined to comparing the statements of Woolworths’ Michael Luscombe on responsible gambling practices to the reality of their associated Victorian pokie pubs and clubs. I have posted his stated standards and the results of my inspections on www.PokieWatch.org. So far I have inspected over 90 venues, many of them on two or more occasions.
While I certainly claim no direct responsibility, there has been an improvement in Woolworths’ standards since commencement of the web site.
I have enlarged the scope of my examinations to South Australia where my visit included your Hampstead Hotel. In the coming weeks I will visit New South Wales and Queensland and include Liquorland pokie venues.
I would be assisted by a list of your associated pokie venues or any venues you manage on behalf of others.
It is my intention to compare practices at your venues with the responsible gaming standards put forward by each state. These standards form the basis of the suggested standards published on PokieWatch at http://www.pokiewatch.org/page/Suggested+Code+of+Conduct
Should your Liquorland division have any published standards, I would be happy to take them into account.
Of course, any assistance you wish to extend to me with respect to my inspections would be helpful. I would welcome the opportunity to speak with gaming staff and the permission to take appropriate photos inside venues..."
I received the following response:While I have never heard from Mr McLeod, I did receive a call from Alison Tehan, the Licensing and Liquor Manager of Coles Liquorland inviting me to a meeting with her and Mark Triffitt, Executive General Manager, Corporate Affairs for Wesfarmers Limited. That meeting happened in early December 2008.

My next blog will set out my recollections of that meeting and what happened afterwards.

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