The Australian public and authorities are seething over the revelations that supermarket and entertainment chain, Woolworths has allegedly been spying on patrons’ gambling habits. According to independent MP, Andrew Wilkie, two former Woolworths employees are alleging that the chain has been keeping detailed records of the activities of pokie machine players at its pub and entertainment venues.
In response to these claims, MPs and other concerned parties are calling on the Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group (the majority-owned Woolworths division) to remove all pokies from these venues. Critics have called Woolworths’s policy of spying on customers an immoral breach of community trust.
Sharing Sensitive Information
The two whistleblowers who have exposed the scandal claim that Woolworths goes beyond spying only on players’ gambling practices to even keep track of their alcohol consumption and other habits. High-rollers and regular players are the most frequent targets of this invasion of privacy, with the information recorded and analysed to boost pokie profits, which account for 10% of Woolworths’s annual revenue.
What’s more, this sensitive information is then uploaded to a Google Drive folder shared with all of the venues on the Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group network. At present, this includes 550 retail liquor outlets and 330 entertainment venues, featuring a total of 12 500 pokies, across Australia.
It is alleged that habits of pokie-playing patrons of Woolworths-owned hotels and other entertainment venues are also being monitored. This includes the popular Coffs Harbour’s Greenhouse Tavern, which, according to by New South Wales (NSW) Greens, is home to 25 additional poker machines.
Immoral Scheme Under Investigation
NSW Greens MLC and Gambling Harm spokesman, Justin Field has described the constant focus of gambling operators on increasing profits as drivers of further unacceptable behaviour. Field adds that poker machine operation is not appropriate for Woolworths as a major long-standing Australian corporation.
He even goes so far as to describe Woolworths’s spying activity as predatory behaviour that targets the most vulnerable people and fosters problem gambling in local communities. Fields argues that the resultant social problems are particularly acute because of the large number of pokie machines operated by the company.
According to Field, Woolworths and the Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group are now under intensive federal and state investigation. If these investigations find that the company has violated any laws in their monitoring of customers’ gambling habits, the company will face considerable repercussions.