We were very disappointed by the results of the latest 'mystery shopper' exercise conducted by the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) to assess host responsibility practice in pubs and clubs with pokie machines.
While the results showed an overall improvement across the casino sector, the same can't be said for pubs and clubs, with only 12 out of 120 non-club venues meeting the standard and none of the 22 clubs.
Of the venues situated in high deprivation and high spending areas, only 59% met the host responsibility standards which is very concerning. These are struggling communities where there are high numbers of pokie machines, so this money is coming out of the pockets of those who can least afford it.
Purpose of the exercise
The DIA states on its website that the purpose of the exercise was to provide a snapshot of how well venue staff identified and responded to signs of harmful gambling. It also highlights opportunities where further support can be provided by industry operators and the Department to better protect gamblers and build stronger communities.
Scenarios were developed to assess how frontline staff responded to a variety of gambling harm behaviours. They were developed using a range of information that included input from gambling operators about how they expected their staff to perform. The scenarios varied in duration and exhibited a range of strong and general signs of gambling harm. Each selected establishment was visited by a mystery shopper who acted out a specific scenario. The Department assessed the country's six casinos and a random selection of 120 of the 1,221 class 4 venues.
Gamble Host Resources
The DIA based the mystery shopper exercise on best practice guidance and the clear expectations provided in a new set of resources that have been designed to support venue staff and gambling patrons. The 'Gamble Host Pack' has been provided to help gaming societies and class 4 venues (pubs and clubs) meet heir gambling host responsibility obligations and provide a duty of care for gamblers.
The pack includes posters, tips for venue managers, an action plan template (for venues to note down what they are going to do to minimise gambling harm in the venue), a logbook template (for recording incidences and observations of gambling harm) and discreet wallet-sized leaflets designed for gamblers that might be experiencing harm.
What are the signs of gambling harm that staff at venues should look out for?
There are many signs of harmful gambling including if someone is gambling for a long length of time (three or more hours) without taking a break, gambling on most days and finding it difficult to stop at closing time.
Sometimes a gambler's behaviour will change and they might become angry or be rude to other gamblers or staff. Venue staff need to look out for gamblers that play intensely without reacting to what's going on around them, play very fast (high spend per line) and show frustration (grunting/groaning, playing roughly). Other signs include looking distressed (looking depressed, sweating, nervous/edgy) or having rituals or superstitions - such as rubbing or talking to the machine.