Woolworths profits from pokies

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Australia’s fresh food people are on their way to becoming one of the world’s largest pokies operators. Woolworths runs 11,700 pokies machines across Australia, which is more than the ‘big six’ casinos in Las Vegas combined.

Woolworths running pokies will come as no surprise to many. What has changed over recent months is how much Woolworths is earning from its gaming arm – and the increase has been significant. One industry estimate puts Woolworths on track to earn more than $200 million per year from gambling, which puts it on par with Australia’s fourth-largest gaming operator.

This boost in earnings was kicked off by a change in Victoria’s pokies licence system in August this year, which broke up the monopoly of gambling giants Tabcorp and Tatts. The largest beneficiary of that change is Woolworths.

Woolworths has committed to spending more than $164.3 million on poker machine entitlements, and a further $26.2 million on new machines.

Activist group GetUp! secured the signatures of 210 Woolworths shareholders for a proposal to install a $1 bet limit across all gaming facilitated by Woolworths in an attempt to reduce problem gambling. The proposal was rejected.

Opinion – Profiting from the misery of others

Woolworths has long been infamous for its pokies machines. But even I was surprised to discover how far it has spread and how much my local supermarket is profiting from the misery of others. Clearly Woolworths has found its venture into the world of gaming a success. The point of a business is to make a profit and I don’t begrudge the supermarket chain its income.

What infuriates me is its lack of regard for the communities and the people from whom they profit . I know it’s an unpopular theory, but I would like to propose that it is possible to run a big (and profitable) business AND have a social conscience. Due to a law change (also known as sheer dumb luck) Woolworths has come into a lot of unexpected money.

Problem gambling in Australia is a serious issue. A 2010 Productivity Commission report suggested the $1 bet limit as a good way to help reduce problem gambling, which is what the GetUp! campaign was based on.  But Woolworths rejected the proposal and instead of putting some of its extraordinary new profit into researching ways to reduce problem gambling, or helping communities or families suffering from problem gambling, it simply pledged to spend the money on making more money.

Next time I go grocery shopping it won’t be at Woolworths – I’m going to the locally run supermarket that’s just a little further down the road, to support my local community and to avoid funding another pokies machine.

Do you think Woolworths should be considering ways to reduce problem gambling? Has the information about the Woolworths pokies machines affected whether or not you shop there?

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Total Comments: 55
  1. 0

    It certainly proves that a lot of people that shop at Safeway and Woolies will have second thoughts about shopping there !
    I for one was shopping at Safeways But after reading this I will be shopping at a smaller one that doesn,t have thoughts of Grandeur on their minds as well as profits instead of trying to improve things !!
    The $1 maximum bet sounds like a great idea and something that cant go over with !

  2. 0

    Woolworths is a business, it is not a branch of Social Services. Your attitude is typical of the Nanny Sate. People have to take responsibility for themselves.

    • 0

      Well said…….Just like a good Woolworths shareholder!

    • 0

      I’m not a “shareholder” but I’m also sick of people dodging their own responsibilities. Its about time that we start getting away from “everyone else is at fault except me” syndrome. Even if you took away the pokies the “problem” gamblers would still bet on some other eg horses.dogs,2 flys on the proverbial wall.. Well said smithjj

    • 0

      In the army in my day, it was mandatory to keep your locker fully locked at all times.

      This – it was said – was to deter thieves from committing a crime. If the locker was found not locked, it was also mandatory for the locker owner to be charged for his oversight.

      This was because, placing temptation in the way of a thief – was also a crime!

    • 0

      Interesting point Ductape. I guess it is no different to insurance companies offering reductions in premiums if you have deadlocks, security screens etc. I guess what they are saying is that if you don’t exercise a duty of care you will be penalised by higher premiums. If that is the case, and we are coerced into putting systems in place to ensure we minimise risk, why should companies who target those with psychological weaknesses be any less accountable for the consequences of their actions? How is that fair?

    • 0

      Well hopefully this was my point AmandaR ….It isn’t fair!
      Woolworths have been allowed to exploit the weakest link in every chain and they do a very good job of it; scoping the cream off the top of everything they touch – and then some – Dick Smith being an exception!
      Whilst they may be a force to be reckoned with, they still need to be held accountable for at least some of the damage they leave in their wake. Oh they volunteer their services to any number of charities, but it’s a calculated exercise; bound to touch a few heartstrings as it promotes the view that they’re really one of the good guys – but our farmers and several local manufacturers will tell you a different story!
      Despite the fact that we are technically our own masters, our system as a whole allows for easy exploitation of the masses by Woolworths and the average citizen has little redress when it comes to making a difference to the status quo.
      Short of every person boycotting Woolworths all at the same time – and continuing to boycott them – Woolworths will continue down their merry path of pushing the lawful boundaries until they own a stake in almost everything in Australia that makes a profit.
      I think most people would go into a state of shock if they knew exactly just how much the tentacles of Woolworths have been allowed to entwine us already.
      The one consolation is that Woolworths is Australian owned…..so far!

  3. 0

    One of the sad things occurring today is the rush to blame some else for your own dilemma. To play the pokies you have to be an adult. With that comes great privileges but also responsibilities. To many want one without acknowledging the other is the problem. I agree with smithjj it is a business and all businesses do not possess a conscious but rather the bottom line.
    Sadly we are always going to have those people who fail. Most times it is there own doing. Give them a hand up and if they fall over again, kick them in the arse till their nose bleeds. They will eventually get the hint.

  4. 0

    Wake up Dotty. No one makes people gamble. They do it because they enjoy it and where they at least come in contact with other people. Perhaps the worse thing is that no one is bothering to find out why they gamble. Could be no one else cares. If it wasn’t Woolworth’s it would and is someone else.

  5. 0

    Gaming is addictive and affects neuro-pathways which are difficult to alter without support. Many addicts are also battling depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. It is not just as simple as just stopping or using will power. We have limits on alcohol (responsible serving of alcohol), why not on pokies?

  6. 0

    It’s a simple equation…… Woolworths + shareholders = dollars.
    Woolworths, like all businesses, care little for anyone or anything other than the bottom line. It’s the way things work in a capitalistic system. However, on a personal note, I believe they should stick to groceries – but that’s just me.
    But they’re unlikely to take much notice of me and whilst I don’t shop at Woolworths, my absence will have a negligible effect on their bottom line. But at least I know that my brother-in-law (who is an avid Woolworth supporter and shareholder) will never gets his hands on any of my money, unless he does it without my knowledge!
    Oh no! I’ve just come from Dan Murphy’s…… Dammit – he’s done me over again!

  7. 0

    I go to the local club most weekends – for raffles and company. I CHOOSE not to gamble, but, I see often people putting large amounts of money through the pokies – THEIR choice. Nobody is there making them.

    It doesnt matter a hoot in hell whether Woolies or anyone else own the pokies, we have in this country FREE CHOICE – for which I am thankful

    Where I draw the line is, when someone has just put their entire pension through one, and then come and ask me for bus fare home!! I will not now, nor have I ever supported addicts of any kind by donating to their stupidity.

    What does annoy me though, is when I see the same person at the local charities on Monday getting food vouchers, as they have no money. They of course, never tell these people what happened to their pensions.

    • 0

      Reppie, your story tells it all. Some people do become addicted to the pokies for various reasons, often loneliness. Woolies is taking advantage of that weakness and exploiting people. Thank Goodness the Government stepped it to persuade people to give up their cigarettes, another addiction.

  8. 0

    Looks like some people are in favour of living in a Nanny State. I can’t help but wonder if they are unable to think and act for themselves. Or do they need someone else to do their thinking for them and guide their lives along politically correct principles. Perhaps if all the hospitals had poker machines in their waiting rooms and Emergency Departments, Dottie would approve of the pokies.

  9. 0

    Nan, some people have addictive personalities. They fail to see it, and can’t say no to just another go at the pokies, or just anther drink, or ciggie, or ……..

    Recognising that in ones self is the hard part, but also the only way they can actually be helped.

    Unfortunately, there are few who actually come through giving up a serious addiction, and it takes huge will power and family and friends support to actually succeed, and of course, many attempts to so do before this point.

    One person I knew was a heavy drinker, finally the hospital refused to take him in when he had another fit from the drink. He was told to go out and die in the gutter.

    It took this, to finally see him get the message. Now all we ever see in his hand is a Pepsi Max . He has earned our respect, and our love all over again, and is an amazing example to his two growing children.

  10. 0

    I agree with Reppie, I get sick of people always blaming some one else for everything, we have choice and should know it is our responsibility to reason for ourselves,we do not need wet nursing all our lives, at the end of the day only we can be in charge of our self, wake up to yourselves and think for yourself, only you can do it.
    My parents made us think like this, I am so glad they did, and also made us face up to the consequences.

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