Friday, 28 August 2009

Coles' Pokies - The Final Chapter?

In what can only be considered as a major breakthrough in reducing the harm that pokie gambling imposes upon the Australian public, Wesfarmers / Coles have now committed to implement the National Principles without waiting for prescriptive legislation from the state and federal governments. Wesfarmers/Coles deserve praise for this progressive action.

Will Woolworths do likewise? Will the clubs, particularly in NSW, also act responsibly and implement the National Principles?

Of course, the most important matter is the Wesfarmers/Coles undertaking to comply with the first National Principle that disallows children's exposure to pokie gambling within the pokie or club.

Here's the full text of Coles' email to me:
"Since my last e mail to you, Spirit Hotels, which manages all of the Coles hotel and gaming venues in Queensland, has completed a rigorous and comprehensive review of its gaming practices and has put in place a six-step action plan to improve the way that they manage our gaming facilities.

This six-step action plan includes:

* warning signs in car parks and inside our hotel venues about the dangers of leaving children unattended in cars (these signs are based on KidsSafe signs)
* significantly enhanced car park security checks by hotels management including hourly checks and log book records that can be monitored and audited
* gaming room screening to minimise the incidental exposure of children to gaming in our hotel venues where this is currently not in place
* removal of any point of sale advertising attracting families with children to our gaming facilities
* point of sale help line material in all our hotels with gaming operations to manage problem gambling
* point of sale material to promote self exclusion in all our hotels to help manage problem gambling

Implementation of this action plan has commenced although some steps will take some time to complete including warning signs and screening. However, capital expenditure has been committed to the process and contractors appointed to complete the work in the next two months. The new Spirit Hotels management team, led by Mark Scates, are committed to this plan and are prepared to undertake random audits for internal compliance purposes.

I believe that this action plan reinforces our commitment to the National Principles for the Conduct of Responsible Gaming announced by Federal and State Ministers in June and the Queensland Responsible Gaming Code of Practice. This six step action plan goes beyond our minimum statutory compliance requirements and reflects best practice standards within the hotels and gaming industry.

The action plan meets most of the proposals you have made in several e mails to Coles and Wesfarmers to improve the management of gaming within our hotels. We remain committed to responsible gaming practices so that the patrons who use gaming facilities in our hotels can continue to enjoy the experience in an appropriate environment and that other patrons in our hotel venues who do not wish to use gaming facilities are not adversely affected.

I understand that Wesfarmers has responded separately to your proposed shareholder communications and plans to seek nomination as a Director at the forthcoming Wesfarmers Annual General Meeting."
From the standpoint of Wesfarmers' shareholders there may be even better developments coming soon. The Financial Review published this unconfirmed report of Wesfarmers / Coles beginning to exit the pokie pub business. This provides Coles with an enormous moral advantage in no longer seeking profit from pokie gambling. Click on the image below to read the reportOf course, as previously blogged, the devil is in the details. While Coles/Wesfarmers intentions are welcome, my response relates entirely to how they will implement their promises. You can click on the two images below to read my response.This closes the chapters for Wesfarmers/Coles for now. It will take them time to implement their undertakings. The focus now turns to Woolworths and the pokie clubs and this has already begun. More details in the next blog.

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