The ACT Gambling and Racing Commission proposed a penalty to the amount of A$120,000 on the Raiders Club in Belconnen after an investigation established the club’s management had demonstrated a “concerning lack of familiarity” with the symptoms of compulsive gambling. The Commission first intended to fine the community-focused club with a higher penalty of A$300,000 as the staff failed to record incidents related to compulsive gambling on eight different occasions.
Details on the penalty were released after an ACAT hearing on March 5, during which a suppression on the Raiders Group’s appeal was lifted. The appeal aimed at overturning the penalty for failing to recognize and report compulsive gambling on the premises of their club in Belconnen.
Raiders Club Customer Gambles over A$200,000 in 18 Months
The penalty was proposed after it was established the club did not recognize signs of compulsive gambling on behalf of Professor Laurie Brown (pictured) who fed more than A$200,000 into the pokie machines at the Belconnen Raiders Club.
The sum was gambled by Professor Brown over a period of 18 months (from June 2015 to January 2017) during which she was able to repeatedly withdraw large amounts of money in cash using the Raiders Club EFTPOS (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale) machine. The Professor’s bank was finally alerted by the frequent withdrawals at the beginning of last year.
Such electronic payment machines are normally located behind the counters at the clubs. Members of the Belconnen Raiders Club staff need to enter the PIN code and swipe the customer’s card before a withdrawal can be initiated. The customer, however, enters the amount they want to cash out themselves.
Staff members of the Belconnen Raiders Club were trained that multiple withdrawals are one of the red flags that indicated a given patron suffered from compulsive gambling. When the staff members spot such behavior, they are bound by law to identify the customer as a compulsive gambler and add them to the club’s central register.
The employees at the Belconnen Raider Club failed to identify and record Professor Brown as a problem gambler on eight different occasions, the worst of which took place in November 2016. At the time, the Professor succeeded in making seven different withdrawals to the amount of A$500 for a total of A3,500. The customer used the money in a single betting session.
The Commission Proposes Tougher Conditions for Raiders Club Belconnen
The ACT Gambling and Racing Commission proposed to place several stricter conditions on the club’s license in addition to the monetary penalty. One of these conditions involved bringing a third-party auditor at the club, who was to supervise its record keeping for a period of two years.
The regulatory body also insisted that the club’s staff members should undergo a responsible gambling training even if they have taken this course in previous years. Members of the staff who were coming off a shift were expected to report on compulsive gamblers to their colleagues who were coming on duty.
The Commission deemed the enforcement of these stricter conditions necessary because of several statements regarding Professor Brown’s case that were made by the Raiders Group management, and in particular, by the Chief Executive Simon Hawkins and the General Manager Craig Potts.
Chief Executive Hawkins addressed Professor Brown’s spouse in a letter where he claimed that the multiple cash withdrawals did not call for reporting her as a problem gambler because there was no way for the Raiders Club staff members to establish how wealthy a given customer is. According to Mr Hawkins, a problem gambling report was only necessary when a member of the club’s staff was alerted by the combination of multiple withdrawals and lack of funds.
The club’s General Manager Mr Craig Potts also informed investigators from Access Canberra that multiple cash withdrawals were only considered a sign of compulsive gambling when the customer exhibited them in combination with other alarming factors, such as irrational behavior, intoxication and excessive alcohol consumption, violence, and coarse language.
The General Manager also added that withdrawing cash repeatedly was not included in the brochures the club’s patrons were handed out on the premises. It should be noted, however, that the brochures in questions were intended to be used by patrons and not by the club’s staff members.
According to the Commission’s Chief Executive David Snowden, both statements are troubling as they were coming from the club’s management and revealed “lack of familiarity” with problem gambling signs. Mr Snowden is certain that repeated withdrawals are in fact a sign of compulsive gambling and should be recorded as such in the Gambling Incident Register as soon as they are observed by the Commission’s licensees.
The stance of the Commission is that the all eight instances of repeated withdrawals by Professor Brown should have been set down in the incident register of the club. It was reported that one of the club’s employees warned about the Professor’s multiple withdrawals but since the warning was issued verbally, the club could not use it as a proof. The hearing on the matter is scheduled to take place from June 12 to June 20, 2018.