Grocery giant Woolworths is the surprise owner of the largest number of dangerous high-loss gambling machine venues in Australia – enabling a social ill that ruins families and destroys lives.
Australia is home to the largest number of dangerous high-loss pokie machines in the world – and grocery giant Woolies is the king of the hill: the largest pokie machine venue owner in the country, with more pokie machines than the top five Las Vegas casinos combined!
Why? Pure dollars: owning hotels with pokie machines is reportedly three times more profitable than selling groceries. No one would know this better than Australia's trusted household brand, which now has more than 12,000 computerised gambling machines in around 300 hotels across the country.
These machines have been called the "crack cocaine" of gambling. Players are estimated to lose hundreds of millions of dollars annually. They’re designed to be highly addictive, especially to those already prone to problem gambling, making them uniquely profitable to big corporations and destructive to the lives of thousands of Australian families. Plenty of Woolworths customers – and shareholders – are not happy that the ‘Fresh Food People’ are heavily profiting from an industry that’s taking the food off so many family tables.
It’s alarming enough that a trusted family brand has out-invested the top five Las Vegas casinos in pokie machines – but they’ve also made it clear that they don't think that their many customers who have been devastated by the impacts of problem gambling are their problem. Earlier this year the head of Woolworths' gambling subsidiary spoke in front of a parliamentary inquiry and shamelessly compared gambling addiction to hamburgers by saying: ''I think the product is safe. Some people have addictions, be it to fast food or drugs…are we asking, is a hamburger safe?"  Woolworths representatives sit on the executive board of the Australian Hotels Association, who are jointly responsible with Clubs Australia for the so called '$20 million' mass advertising campaign against pokies reform.
The truth is, Woolworths can more than afford to curb problem gambling and still profit handsomely from recreational pokie players, alongside all their other business. We frankly expect better of a trusted Australian family brand than to fund a massive and misleading ad campaign against pokie reform. Corporate greed at it's worst...
"Woolworths hits the jackpot with pokies after signing deal with Laundy hotel group", Daily Telegraph. November 11, 2011
"Woolworths in pokie grip talks", Sydney Morning Herald. April 18, 2011
"Woolies is poker machine king", Daily Telegraph. November 12, 2011
"Playing pokies just like eating a burger, says Woolies subsidiary", Sydney Morning Herald. February 15, 2011
"Woolworths revealed to own more pokies than the Adelaide Casino", News.com.au. April 16, 2011
This information was provided by the campaigning organisation Getup. GetUp is an independent, not-for-profit community campaigning group. We use new technology to empower Australians to have their say on important national issues. We receive no political party or government funding, and every campaign we run is entirely supported by voluntary donations. If you'd like to contribute to help fund GetUp's work, please donate now! Authorised by Simon Sheikh, Level 5, 116 Kippax St, Surry Hills NSW 2010. http://www.getup.org.au/