In 2018 a member of Dee Why RSL, Gary Van Duinen, tragically committed suicide following a build up of gambling losses over a long period. Following formal complaints from friends and family members, the NSW ILGA opened an investigation into the conduct of the club and their loyalty program. The club’s ambassador rewards system was reviewed by Liquor and Gaming NSW in February 2017, but the club got “no feedback” about it.
Mr Van Duinen’s problem gambling began after he won a jackpot of more than $30,000 on June 19, 2016, and another jackpot nine days later worth over $35,000. He lost all that money and went into debt. Mr Van Duinen, a self-employed builder aged 45, took his life after a nine-hour pokie binge from Dee Why RSL to Manly Leagues Club and back to Dee Why until about 2am on May 31, 2018. He had 12 alcoholic drinks while gambling over $15,000 on more than 60 machines at Dee Why over six hours.
Mr Van Duinen’s mother Joy said she hopes the penalties “will shake up the industry” despite the fine being less than what her son lost.
“If somebody is putting through thousands and spending hours and hours at the club I believe they have a duty of care to approach the person, like they do if someone is drunk, and escort them out,” she said. “I’m not anti-poker machines, I’m just anti the harm they can do.”
ILGA is pushing to bring Responsible Conduct of Gambling (RCG) marshals into more clubs, with changes “hopefully” to be debated in Parliament
A spokesperson for ClubsNSW was “pleased to see third party exclusions”, which allow clubs to intervene on behalf of concerned relatives. “[This] is something that we have advocated in favour of for more than a decade,” he said.
ClubsNSW developed best practice guidelines for loyalty programs in 2019 and has developed training for staff to identify and interact with anyone who displays signs of problem gambling, the spokesman said.
ILGA found that the club’s conduct in offering four external events to a select group of Top 100 players (that was not offered to all tier members) constituted conduct that was likely to encourage the misuse and abuse of gambling activities. The member only chose to attend one of the four events.
The club was also instructed that it did not do enough when a family member (3rd party) advised staff that the member had a gambling problem and should be excluded from gaming. Current regulations don’t allow for a third party to enforce the exclusion of a member. The club did have a conversation with the member who contested that he didn’t have a problem.
Following the decision, the ILGA has placed extraordinary special conditions on Dee Why RSL’s club licence including:
• Requiring the Club to engage an RCG qualified staff member with the primary responsibility of acting as an “RCG Marshal” to monitor the Club’s gaming operations at all times for any players displaying the problem gambling indicia described in the RCG Notes and request any such players to take a break from gaming machine play for the rest of the day, or evening, as the case may be (RCG Marshal Condition).
• Requiring the Club to maintain an RCG Incident Register for every shift, to record any relevant interaction with gaming machine players and their response to the request to take a break from gaming machine play (RCG Register Condition).
• Requiring the Club to operate a third party/venue-initiated gaming machine player exclusion scheme (Third Party Exclusion Condition).
ILGR advised the club that if they received reports the club hasn’t complied, they may:
• Revoke, under section 42(3)(c) of the GMA, the Club’s reduced gaming machine shut down period on weekends and public holidays so that the standard shut down period applies each day from 4:00 am to 10:00 am.
• Impose a new licence condition under section 53(1)(b) of the LA in the following terms:
Any player reward scheme that the Club operates must not include or be operated in connection with a tiered loyalty program. A ‘tiered loyalty program’ includes a program that offers different, additional, or increasing benefits to members or guests based on their gaming machine turnover, or the accumulation of bonus, reward or status points.
The $200,000 penalty is the biggest ever imposed on a licensed venue in NSW and exceeds the $172,000 penalty imposed on two Woolworths-owned ALH hotels just last week for giving gamers free alcohol while playing machines.
We support Dee Why RSL if they apply to have the decision reviewed.
For a copy of the decision:
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