Australian retail group Wesfarmers has again put on the table a reform by not ruling out dumping its gaming operations unless changes are introduced to limit the social damage caused by poker machines. The company’s chief executive, Richard Goyder, has told ABC’s The Business it was pushing poker-machine manufacturers to make software changes that would allow it to introduce a $1 per spin limit to poker machines, which it could trial in its hotels.
“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.
Wesfarmers began its push last year but it is being stonewalled by poker-machine manufacturers. “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,” Goyder said.
Wesfarmers inherited a large gaming business when it bought Coles in 2007, including a swag of Queensland hotels bought in order to compete against rival Woolworths in the liquor business.
“The reason we’re in pokies is that legislation in Queensland mandates that to retail liquor, you have to own hotels,” he said.
When asked if the company would consider selling its poker machines, Mr Goyder 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.”
He added the limit would “reduce the harm that comes from one end of the pokie industry. But if we can’t do that, we’ll look at other options,” he said.