Coles threaten to dump pokies machines if max bet isn’t reduced

Wesfarmers Goyder wants minimum max bet limit
Mr Goyder says he wants manufacturers to allow software changes.

Coles may try to discard their electronic gaming machines if the maximum bet per spin isn’t reduced.

The parent company of the supermarket giant, Wesfarmers, has continued to push for a reduction of the maximum limits on poker machines.

The company revealed it hasn’t ruled out removing the gambling operations altogether if changes aren’t made.

Wesfarmers chief executive, Richard Goyder, says the reason Coles owns pokies games in the first place is due to Queensland law requiring liquor retailers to also own hotels which house these machines.

This means dumping the gaming machines may not be a feasible move, which is why he is pushing the $1 limit.

My Goyder has told ABC’s The Business, legislation needs to be modified or other avenues will have to be considered.

“The reason we’re in pokies is that legislation in Queensland mandates that to retail liquor, you have to own hotels,” he said.

“We need that legislation to change and it’s fair to say we’ll look at all options, but at the end of the day we are a good operator and an ethical operator of these businesses and we should be allowed to trial $1 spin limits in line with the Productivity Commission recommendations.

“But if we can’t do that, we’ll look at other options.”

Mr Goyder said to reduce the limits he wanted poker machine manufacturers to implement software changes that would allow Wesfarmer’s hotels to reduce the maximum bet.

“We had a conversation at board level about this and there’s a really strong desire from both Wesfarmers and Coles to move this along and I’m hopeful this will happen,” he said.

Last year Coles called for the reduced betting limits on its 3069 machines but its five operators, including Aristocrat, refused.

The current legislation doesn’t allow owners to change the limits so it was denied due to the manufacturers stance.

Mr Goyder is trying another angle with the software changes, but it isn’t clear how the manufacturers will respond.

“I’m hoping we get a positive response because we’d like to trial it — we think it is the right thing to do and we’re a bit frustrated at the moment that we can’t do it,” Mr Goyder said.

Wesfarmers obtained the pokies when it acquired Coles a decade ago, where a range of Queensland hotels were also purchased in order to compete with Woolworths in the liquor sector.

Woolworths is also the biggest poker-machine operator in the country, and protested the pokies limit reduction last year when it was first proposed.

Wesfarmers wants this issue resolved quickly, despite being introduced three years ago at a meeting with World Vision Australia’s Tim Costello. Here, it was announced problem gambling would be tackled.

“I’m serious about it and there’s no doubt the board and John Durkin [managing director] at Coles is serious as well, so we would like it to move forward as quickly as we can,” Mr Goyder said.

Coles has also reached out to prominent anti-gambling crusaders senator Nick Xenophon and MP Andrew Wilkie, who slammed the gambling industry when the maximum bet limits were rejected.

Mr Wilkie praised Wesfarmers ongoing campaign to reduce the maximum limit for the pokie reform in a comment to the ABC.

“It’s nothing short of scandalous that Australia’s poker-machine manufacturers are refusing to make safer $1-maximum bet machines, and vitally important that Coles doesn’t buckle to such unscrupulous behaviour,” he said.

“We know that 40 per cent of money lost on poker machines is lost by gambling addicts and any corporation whose business model depends on this, or which supports the operators of poker machines, is patently unethical and to be condemned.”

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