WOOLWORTHS, which operates almost 300 hotels, has criticised the proposed mandatory pre-commitment rules for poker machines.Addressing the company's annual general meeting in Sydney today, Woolworths chairman James Strong said the company supported poker machine reforms that were well researched and provide genuine solutions to help problem gamblers.
"Mandatory pre-commitment, however, is likely to impact recreational players, by erecting barriers to participation, while at the same time there is no evidence that it will be effective in actually reducing the incidence of problem gambling," he said.
Under a deal struck with key independent Andrew Wilkie, the Labor government wants poker machine players to be required to preset a limit on how much they gamble on high-stakes poker machines.
Woolworths operates 294 hotels through its investment in the ALH Group, of which 249 have gaming facilities.
Mr Strong said ALH accounted for approximately four per cent of Australia's pub- or club-based gaming venues, and about six per cent of the country's gaming machines.
ALH supported voluntary pre-commitment, which would help players stick to their limit by nominating spending or time limits on gaming machines, he said.
"We already undertake several problem-gambling initiatives ourselves and are committed to providing responsible gambling in our venues," Mr Strong said.
Pokie reform campaigners are targeting the Woolworths AGM, planning to present a petition of more than 62,000 signatures to the board.
Independent senator Nick Xenophon and GetUp national director Simon Sheikh are attending the meeting.
Some GetUp members are Woolworths shareholders.
"Whilst we acknowledge and accept that some people have a personal objection to gaming machines, we maintain our position as that of a responsible operator of a legitimate business and the majority of our shareholders agree with that approach," Mr Strong told the AGM.