The Australian supermarket and grocery store chain Woolworths has been called to eliminate pokies in its pub and entertainment venues after reports of its staff spying on customers have recently emerged.
It was only a couple of days ago when Andrew Wilkie, an independent MP, has revealed that two whistleblowers who had previously worked for Woolworths shared that the company’s staff members had been secretly recording and sharing personal information about gamblers. Reportedly, the Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group, which is a majority-owned arm of Woolworths, have made its employees spy on the most regular and high-roller players’ gambling habits in order to use the information for boosting its profits.
As revealed by Mr. Wilkie, Woolworths venues have been keeping detailed databases of their customers, including their usual behaviours, drinking and gambling habits, etc. What is worse, the sensitive information has been stored on a Google drive and has been shared electronically across the entire venues network of the Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group.
The allegations are already being investigated by federal and state gambling authorities.
Woolworths’ Immoral Scheme Broke Community Trust
Currently, the Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group operates about 550 retail liquor shops and 330 venues in Australia and offers approximately 12,500 pokies to local residents. For the time being, the poker machines revenue generated by the brand accounts for about 10% of the overall annual revenue of Woolworths.
Allegedly, Woolworths-owned hotels and entertainment venues have been part of the scheme, with the Coffs Harbour’s Greenhouse Tavern being in the list, too. According to data provided by New South Wales (NSW) Greens, the site currently offers 25 poker machines to its customers.
Justin Field, the spokesperson of NSW Greens MLC and Gambling Harm commented on the case, saying that the fact that gambling operators are constantly focused on increasing their profits creates a chance for such type of unacceptable behaviour to become more commonly-spread in the country. According to Mr. Field, poker machines operation in this context is not consistent with the position of Woolworths as one of the major and well-established Australian companies.
The NSW Greens and Gambling Harm Spokesperson further commented on the afore-mentioned policy of the company, calling it a “predatory behaviour”, especially considering the fact that it operates a large number of pokies, which have been blamed for targeting some of the most vulnerable people in the local community. For some time now, poker machines have been considered some of the factors which have massive negative influence on Australian players, leading to major financial issues, relationship and family breakdown and even suicidal behaviour.
Mr. Field explained that the ongoing investigation would show whether or not the company has violated existing laws. In any way, he said that Woolworths-operated pubs and hubs which have taken record of customers’ gambling and drinking habits have done something immoral which has broken the community’s trust in the company.