26 November 2015

The Australian Christian Lobby today backed calls made by the Alliance for Gambling Reform for the retail chain Woolworths to exit its damaging $1 billion-plus pokie empire.

As Woolworths directors faced shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting in Sydney, ACL managing director Lyle Shelton urged shareholders to pressure the company directors to exit the family-damaging gambling industry.

“It is time for Woolworths to exit the industry or support reforms proposed by the Australian Christian Lobby and the Alliance for Gambling Reform,” Mr Shelton said.

“Woolworths, which owns 96 per cent of the gambling business AHL Group, is making an estimated $1.2 billion dollars a year off the backs of the poorest Australians,” Mr Shelton said.

“I’m sure the average Australian would be shocked to realise that the grocer who puts food on the table for some families, through their gambling profits, takes it off others.”

He said Woolworths owns or operates approximately 12,000 electronic gaming machines through the ALH Group’s 323 poker-machine pubs, in which it is the major shareholder.

“If Woolworths were serious about their ‘family friendly’ direction, they should not involve themselves in the socially harmful pokie business.” Mr Shelton said.

“Woolworths should use its powerful position to lead by example and minimise the harm posed by poker machines.”

“The gambling machines are designed to use deceptive tricks to entice people to continue spending money on them. The damage that this is causing to families and in communities is now well documented.”

“We encourage Woolworths shareholders to consider the ethics of investing in a gambling company.”

Mr Shelton said the Australian Christian Lobby was open to working with Woolworths if it is serious about introducing reforms.