Clubs are like casinos
A gambler’s death may result in an Australian poker club facing a disciplinary hearing for allegedly failing to conduct responsible gambling practices.
Gary Van Duinen is reported to have killed himself last year after spending all night gambling on the Dee Why RSL Club’s poker machines despite his family calling for the club to help him, reports The Sydney Morning Herald. According to his mother, Duinen was spending up to 13 hours at the club, resulting in the breakdown of his marriage and business.
When Van Duinen failed to return home, his wife went to look for him. It’s believed that he took a cab to nearby bushland and took his own life.
Mrs. Van Duinen said that the only thing clubs care about is taking money from people and making a profit.
“Clubs have become so much like casinos that you can’t tell the difference,” she added. “Now they are building a new whopping great building down there from the tax breaks and the gambling money. It is not what clubs are meant to be.”
The Dee Why RSL Club is thought to be the 11th largest pokies club in New South Wales, with 494 machines. Due to the AU$44.4m (£24.2m; $30.7m) taken in from punters last year, the venue is undertaking an AU$100m (£54.6m; $69.2m) expansion.
Van Duinen, who was a diamond member of the club’s Ambassador Rewards program, would be rewarded points for the money that he lost at the venue. According to his wife, the amount of this was estimated to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In a report from July 2018, shortly after Van Duinen’s death, a former gambling-room server explained why he quit the club before the gambler’s death because of the disgust he felt with the measures used to encourage heavy gamblers to continue gambling.
Matthew McGee said that the venue used the rewards system to maintain a detailed record of spending by big gamblers, which included a profile page and photo so that the gambling-room servers could provide a personalized service to them.
This included answering a buzzer call that alerted staff and supervisors that a high priority player requested service. Not only that, but the rewards meant the gamblers didn’t have to pay for any drinks, which many may consider a form of gambling reward with alcohol.
Following Van Duinen’s death, the Liquor & Gaming NSW conducted an investigation. As a result, the New South Wales government agency has filed a formal disciplinary complaint with the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA).
According to Reverend Tim Costello, spokesman for The Alliance for Gambling Reform, the club should face the consequences with significant charges placed against it. The ILGA has the power to impose fines of up to AU$550,000 (£300,400; $380,490), and to change, suspend, or cancel the club’s license.
Costello said: “This is a cowboy industry which won’t ever learn to be responsible until the NSW government and the regulator breaks free from industry capture and proves they can fearlessly govern this industry to stamp out predatory behavior.”
The result of this case remains to be seen, but it highlights a growing problem. Gambling may provide hundreds of jobs to local residents, but it seems clear that measures are needed to ensure the safety of those attending these venues.