An Illawarra club has been fined a record amount for giving gamblers at the club free alcohol and large cash advances as incentives to keep playing poker machines.
Staff were putting cash advances of up to $40,000 through eftpos machines, disguised as purchases, and providing gamblers with free drinks, the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority found.
- The fine is the largest issued since the gaming authority was established
- Staff were putting through cash advances of up to $40k and providing free drinks
- The gaming authority issued the record fine to send a message
The authority has fined the Illawarra Steelers Club in Wollongong $100,000 for breaches of gaming machine regulations and liquor laws.
It is the largest fine since the authority was established a decade ago.
The breaches occurred under the club’s former general manager Scott Miles, who is currently serving a four-year prison sentence for defrauding the club of $1 million to fund his own gambling habits.
When the club discovered the fraud it launched an investigation into other club practices and discovered further breaches.
Club chairman Peter Newell said Mr Miles had been telling staff to put the cash advances through and provide the free alcohol, telling them they had permission to do so.
Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority chairman Phillip Crawford said the breaches were serious and backed up by significant evidence.
“We thought the breaches were unacceptable,” he said.
“The act is in place for good reason, to protect members of the public.
“When we saw the evidence it was clear we needed to act appropriately and send a message to the industry that it wasn’t good enough.”
Alliance for Gambling Reform says more needs to be done
The Alliance for Gambling Reform has called for Mr Newell, who is also the ClubsNSW president, to resign.
Spokesman Stephen Mayne said while the alliance welcomed the $100,000 fine, more should be done, and the maximum fine of $275,000 should have been imposed.
“To actually get a regulator fining a pokies club $100,000 has never happened before,” Mr Mayne said.
“[The fine] is better than nothing but we think it should have been higher.
“The ClubsNSW AGM is coming up on October 13 and the members should be insisting on a change of leadership.”
The Illawarra Steelers Club has been fined for breaching gaming and liquor laws. (Flickr: Raging Wire)
Chairman does not intend to resign
Mr Newell said this was another challenge the club would get through.
He told the ABC the board had had no knowledge of the illegal activities before the internal investigations.
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He said once the breaches were discovered, the club reported itself to the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority.
“Hopefully it rules a line under the era of the former general manager of the club, Scott Miles,” Mr Newell said.
“It will pose a challenge but we will look at how we meet that and go forward from there.
“I have spoken to the board, they have expressed confidence in me and I will not be resigning.”
Mr Mayne said the NSW Government needed to ensure this sort of breach did not happen again.
“NSW has some of the slackest gambling regulations in the world,” he said.
“The most important thing is that the Government does not sign another memorandum of understanding with ClubsNSW before the next election to stop gambling reforms.
“These deals with ClubsNSW prevent the Government from doing anything.”