Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Coles' Pokies Part 2

The meeting at Coles Victorian headquarters was both informal and cordial. Alison Tehan had been an employee of ALH, a company associated with Woolworths' pokie pubs. Mark Triffit was employed in public relations with Wesfarmers and mentioned that he speaks with Richard Goyder, the Wesfarmer's boss.

I mentioned to both what I had seen in Queensland with the exposure of pokie sights and sounds to children in their eating areas. I brought up the situation at the Beenleigh Tavern. I recalled my observation of one person playing two pokies simultaneously at the Club Hotel Waterford. I told them about the lack of warnings on the entrance to the pokie room at the Everton Park Hotel. See below:
I have no doubt that they fixed the problem with this entrance. I also indicated my view that the Mansfield Tavern was unacceptable to have children present.

My recollection is that Mark assured me that it was their intention to do the right thing. He had not been to their Queensland venues and I suggested that he might want to visit some of the Victorian venues associated with Woolworths to get a sense of what I was talking about. He indicated that he would and get back to me with his impressions.

Here's my follow-up email:
"Alison and Mark,

Most importantly, thank you for your time and listening to my rants at your office. I am sincerely appreciative and completely respect what you said about trying to do the right thing. I am grateful for you putting together a venue list.

I am gradually posting my inspection notes for the Brisbane pokie venues on PokieWatch.org

Here are some Melbourne based Woolworths' associated venues that might be of interest to have a look at and why:
Lyndhurst Club - 513 Lygon Street, East Brunswick - Older venue restored. Not presented as 'family friendly but provides a good adult gambling environment
Croxton Park - 607 High Street, Thornbury - Another older venue restored. Features range of entertainment. One of the worst placements of play area I have observed.
Meadow Inn Hotel - 1435 Sydney Road, Fawkner - Playroom recently added. Aggressive children's advertising. Promotes its rooms at $80 per night for up to 4 people.
Pascoe Vale Hotel - 12 Railway Parade, Pascoe Vale - Promotes Kids Eat Free offers. Pokies visible and audible.
Ashley Hotel - 226 Ballarat Road, Braybrook - Either a new pub or one that has been gutted and restored. Observed families dining during last inspection with kids staring into the pokies area. Dining area has KENO displays and integrated with pokies area and sports bar.

I can also commend to you to visit the Woolworths associated venues in the City of Monash; a capped region. Just go to www.PokieWatch.org and type in "Monash" in the search box on the top left. You'll see a range of suburban venues from the Hawthorn FC's Vegas located in a mall to complexes like the Village Green. This area is more like the areas where Coles/Liquorland Brisbane venues are located. Woolies have applied to increase the number of pokies at the Matthew Flinders to levels prior to the imposition of the cap.

I do appreciate some essential differences between Victorian venues and pokie venues in other states. There has not been a Victorian restriction on pokie sound and vision. Many more pokies are allowed in Victorian venues.

Detailed consideration of how to effectively exclude children from a pokie gambling experience will await the results of your inspections.

The people at Woolworths suggested that national standards would be beneficial. I agree. To start with, here's four simple steps that truly focus on problem gamblers, do not affect the casual gambler and would cost little to implement:
A4 signs advertising Self Exclusion. You do this in S.A. already. You have the facilities in all your venues.
Ban simultaneous play. Another S.A. requirement. A little staff training and an A4 sign is all that is needed.
Parking Rules - Some of your venues post rules warning parents not to leave their children in the car. Most do not. Here's a link to the Victorian Kidsafe resources web page. http://www.kidsafevic.com.au/index.php/Resources/Resources-Fact-Sheets Have a look at the pdf on Hot Cars and the sign on page 2 of the order form of current resources.
Place and maintain Gambler's HelpLine posters and cards in all toilets. This may well be the most effective measure.

Finally, I do commend to you serious consideration of creating wiki pages for each venue's responsible gaming practices. They take little time to produce and even less to maintain. It will enable all to see the practices in place without the need for extensive travel. It would be an innovative step that will allow positive public interaction and enable true transparency. I would be sincerely honoured to work on and implement a moderated model at no cost whatsoever."
Unfortunately, my stated concerns about lack of signs in car parks warning parents not to leave their children in parked cars may have had real consequences.

More about that in blogs to come.

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