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NSW hotels plied gamblers with free booze

Australia’s third-biggest poker machine operator has been ordered to pay more than $172,000 after two of its NSW hotels illegally plied gamblers with free alcohol.

Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group, which is 75 per cent owned by Woolworths, was slapped with various penalties after Liquor and Gaming NSW found Westower Tavern in Ballina and South Tweed Tavern had “systemically” supplied gaming patrons with on-the-house booze.

Under the state’s gaming laws, it is illegal to offer or supply free or discounted alcohol to induce gambling.

“A system whereby gamblers were given free liquor ‘shouts’ was captured in daily reporting targets and tied to gaming profits and staff performance,” Liquor and Gaming NSW director of investigations Valerie Griswold said.

“Staff were encouraged to seek out regular and high-bidding gamblers for free drinks, a process that was documented and managed through reports and staff emails.

“This practice illegally used alcohol to boost gambling and what it does, essentially, is reduce a person’s control of their gambling.”

The hotels were banned from operating their pokies for two weeks. The licensees of the two venues, Andrew Wyeth and Rachel Watts, were fined a total of $3500 while ALH manager Morgan Bensley was banned from the industry in NSW for five years.

ALH was also ordered to pay $172,692 in costs.

Liquor & Gaming NSW said there were allegations of this kind of conduct at ALH venues across three states, but it was the first regulator to take action.

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