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Wednesday, 28 February 2018
Page: 2353

Mr WILKIE (Denison) (10:11): I can reveal today that Woolworths spies on its poker machine customers without their knowledge, keeps a secret database of personal information and uses that information to encourage increased gambling. This practice undoubtedly increases revenue, but it is also immoral, is possibly illegal and directly fosters increased gambling addiction. I know this because of two brave whistleblowers who previously worked for Woolworths. Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group is majority owned by Woolworths and has around 400 poker machine venues, with some 12,000 machines between them, including 150 poker machines in Tasmania. In all of these venues there are some staff who record personal information about poker machine players without their knowledge and share it electronically with the other venues. This isn't basic information; we're talking about things like jobs, the times people come in, favourite drinks, favourite football teams, whether they have a partner and what their preferred bet level is—and all to one end: to help staff better bond with patrons so as to keep people on site and gambling longer.

We just need to listen to one of the whistleblowers to get the gist when he refers to 'predatory tactics', 'unethical' and wanting people to 'keep gambling for as long as possible'. We shouldn't blame the staff at these venues, because I'm told they well understand that the practice is deeply unethical. Indeed, the staff hate that they're being forced by Woolworths to spy on people and to use the personal information to increase gambling, even though this is creating new pokies addicts. In Tasmania, Woolworths own five poker machine venues, at which Tasmanians lose $10 million every year, including $4 million in Glenorchy, in my electorate. All of these Tasmanians could have their information shared with every other Woolworths venue in the country.

This makes a complete and utter mockery of the ridiculous claims being made by the poker machine industry in Tasmania as part of the Love Your Local campaign, because these revelations show that these aren't lovable local pubs but rather a very big business that shares its customers' most private details. They are not only big business but also part of a coordinated campaign to spy on unknowing patrons so that they can fleece even more money out of their pockets, including the gambling addicts, who make up 15 per cent of people who play weekly.

Today's revelations demonstrate just how low the poker machine industry stoops to create addicts. We already know that this is an industry that is prepared to lie to the community, whether it's about jobs or the rates of gambling addiction, and now we know the industry is prepared to abuse the trust of its customers to make money. This is disgraceful behaviour and it should be called out.