If only the pokie venues were as committed as Wilkie
It’s all well and good to have debated the pre-commitment poker machine legislation back and forth for the last two years, but none of it matters unless gambling venues commit to upholding the responsible conduct of gambling code.
And clubs aren’t doing that. Or not in my experience anyway.
Drug dealers make money from selling drugs. Prostitutes make their money from sex. For three years I earned a living serving people who destroyed their lives and their families with gambling addictions. The only difference with my trade was, it’s socially acceptable.
The culture of clubs and pubs in Australia is backward and destructive. They are rife with bullying, sexism and cronyism. They are truly unhappy places littered with many unhappy people, staff and gamblers included.
During my time working at clubs I would be rostered to work from Thursday to Sunday religiously. I would see the same people four days in a row, sitting at the same poker machines, these people become part of the furniture.
Take my usual Friday overnighter, starting work at 9:30pm the usual suspects would arrive long before I started and we would be leaving together at 6am when the sun came up. These people were only leaving because the club was closing.
“Is it that time already?” patrons would say to me in disbelief when I would usher them out. It was common to see security guards resort to physical force to remove people from the club at closing time.
In my club, no matter what shift you landed, customer service in gaming was paramount. People playing the poker machines were attended to faster and with greater service than any other person in the club.
On a tray shift I would bring drinks galore, dinner and sometimes dessert to patrons playing the pokies. I would bring entire steak meals, with a side order of salad and chips and mushroom sauce to gamblers. “I asked for Greek salad, not garden salad. Also, I need more ice in this Coke!” they would demand, eyes not moving from the screen.
Would I dare tell them where to stick it? I wouldn’t dream of it. Club management would roast me. You know the saying ‘the customer is always right’? Well, clubs take it to a whole new level as ‘gambling customers are gods’.
This type of service creates an environment where gamblers do not even need to get up out of their seat for anything, except to go to the toilet. And sometimes that doesn’t even happen.
On a few occasions going on a glass run would lead to nasty surprises. Picking up a full bottle of VB, I remember thinking to myself why it was so warm? I instantly realised it was urine.
Sometimes staff aren’t so lucky and find wet seats.
I remember one colleague of mine was doing his first training shift on gaming, attending a maintenance call he started talking to a woman who had lost her entire pension, telling him how poor she was going to be for the rest of the week.
“Maybe you should quit now and go home,” he replied.
People who work in gaming are required by law to obtain a Responsible Conduct of Gambling certificate. One of the requirements of the certificate is being able to recognise problem gambling behaviour and assist where appropriate.
My colleague identified that this woman was a problem gambler, and suggested she stop playing the poker machines by going home. A shift manager told senior management. My colleague was extensively disciplined. Responsible conduct of gaming? I think not.
Nick, a former colleague of mine says clubs are not upholding their duty of a Responsible Service of Alcohol where gamblers are concerned.
“Management overrule staff in regards to intoxicated patrons, because they are heavy gamblers. We aren’t allowed to cut them off or kick them out of the club because they have pull within the club, not because of their attendance, but because of the amount of money they spend.”
Poker machine reforms passed the House of Representatives silently last week. The outcome seems anti-climatic given the furore of Clubs Australia and poker machine lobbyists’ campaign against pre-commitment technology in 2010.
Instead of a having a real debate about problem gambling and its cost on society, many Australians instead debated the character of Independent MP Andrew Wilkie and his role in propping up the Gillard Government.
Perhaps the whole conversation should have been about the culture of gambling venues rather than pokies and pokier players.
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