Thursday, 22 April 2010

Responding to ALH

Here is the text of the letter I delivered to the offices of the Woolworths / Mathieson joint venture just before the close of business yesterday:

Mr. Ross Blair-Holt
ALH Group

Dear Ross,

I refer to your letter of 19 April 2010 and the attachment setting out the goods and services associated with the registered trademark.

It is certainly not my intention to inappropriately use the ALH Group trademark.

Upon review of the website, it would seem that the only use of the trademark was on the blog titled “Who runs The Rex” published on 12 January 2010. If this is incorrect and there are other instances, please let me know and I will have a look at every other instance.

On this blog the business card that was on offer at this venue was displayed.

This publication of the trademark is not for the provision of any of the goods or services set out in the ATMOSS extract. The publication does not confuse or deceive any reader that I represent that I provide any of those goods or services. No defamatory or untrue statements were published with respect to the trademark.

The purpose of publication was to report to readers what I was able to find to add substance to my belief that the ALH Group effectively ‘runs’ this venue and is therefore responsible for its conduct. I acknowledge that I am critical of that conduct with regard to unaccompanied children being allowed inside The Rex. That conduct was the subject of direct email correspondence with Woolworths Limited. Woolworths Limited controls a substantial interest in the ALH Group and is aware of my criticism.

Given the discussion in the media, academic papers and government inquiries, the conduct of gambling at pokie venues is a matter of public interest. The exposure of children to gambling areas inside pokie pubs and clubs is the subject of a joint statement of the Ministerial Council on Gambling and its prohibition being the first of the national principles for the conduct of responsible gaming machine activity. The matters reported and commented upon in the blog are matters of public interest.

A Google search of the Woolworths’ image returns many websites that display the image. This is common for many companies. The action taken with respect to the ALH Group logo is no different.

It is widespread practice for websites to display trademarks for purpose of comment. It is also the practice of news services, both electronic and print, to display trademarks when reporting or commenting. While I cannot say for certain for every instance, I am informed that prior consent is rarely sought nor obtained. Similarly, action taken with respect to the ALH Group logo was the subject of journalistic report and then fair comment made about the company's conduct.

I welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues with you. At the same time, it may be helpful to discuss the matters raised at the Woolworths Annual General Meeting relating to inexpensive and easy to implement harm minimisation measures that Mr Luscombe indicated that would be considered. They are:
  • promotion of self exclusion facilities by use of A4 sized notices
  • prohibition of simultaneous pokie gambling
  • placement and maintenance of posters and business cards in pokie venue toilets and smoking areas promoting assistance for problem gamblers
  • erection and maintenance of warning signs in all states regarding the prohibition and danger of leaving children in cars.

None of these measures appear to have been implemented in two associated venues I visited last week.


It would be terrific if this all resulted in raising the standards of harm minimisation from pokie gambling and Woolworths / Mathieson associated pokie pubs and clubs.


Anonymous said...

Paul.Could you perhaps do a follow up letter to say the image of the business card has been removed from the site as requested by them as any further arguing on trademark laws would be a side issue only, and suggest ALH focus on protecting their customers, especially customer's children, from the known harm caused to many by pokies, with the same speed and determination they sought to protect their
trademark.Arguably,even the image of their letter needs to be removed as it now shows the trademark.

Anonymous said...

Paul. Another suggestion is to reply confirming the removal of the trademark shown on the blog, and suggesting that the ALH Responsible Gambling Ambassador David Schwarz share some of his experiences via your blog that he has had with ALH young (18-25) year old customers for example, who are sitting alone,in a ALH venue,late at night, playing pokies up to $5 per spin trying to win the big one, perhaps how he made them aware, to be honest to themselves about the gambling they are doing. Your blog readers would no doubt expect the ambassador to have such stories to share where a young person was helped to avoid a serious mistake in their life (I note 18-25 as it is completely obvious such young people could not generally be wealthy enough to bet like this, so it stands out very easily).

Anonymous said...

If these Pubs and Clubs are to respect the Rights of the Child.
[ See United Nations site. ]

They will remove all vending machines in children areas of Pubs and Clubs. Why? Because machines that operate on winning something by chance are in principle the same as poker machines. Do the Pubs and Clubs want to be seen as training the children to gamble?

Businesses have to show responsibility towards the Rights of the Child. Remove all vending machines that operate on chance reward in family areas. The Pubs and Clubs Management need to take time out and show how they protect the Rights of the Child.

Anonymous said...

It angers me to read and verify that there is only one thing driving this company....$MONEY$. They can pretend to have peoples best interests at heart, but we all know the truth. I currently work for ALH, and it was complsory for each employee to sit through a 10 minute video of David Schwartz telling his story of how gambling has ruined his life, it ended us giving us the impression that ALH was finally taking the matter of problem gambling seriously and were actually there to help, but this was just a smokescreen. The following week it became compulsory for food to be pumped out into the pokies at regular 1-2hour intervals to keep the poor helpless people glued to there seats. Hypocrites.