NSW, Australia - A poker club in Australia is in hot water as it faces a disciplinary hearing for allegedly failing to heed responsible gambling practices, which resulted in the death of Gary Van Duinen.
Van Duinen reportedly killed himself last year after spending all night gambling on the Dee Why RSL Club’s poker machines in spite of his family’s pleads for the club to help him. According to Van Duinen’s mother, his son was spending as much as 13 hours at the club, which led to the breakdown of his marriage and business.
When Van Duinen failed to return home, his wife went out looking for him. However, an investigation into the incident has led many to believe that he rode a cab to bushland nearby where he apparently committed suicide.
His mother had some scathing accusations for clubs, saying that the only thing they cared about is taking money from people and making a profit.
“Clubs have become so much like casinos that you can’t tell the difference,” she said. “Now they are building a new whopping great building down there from the tax breaks and the gambling money. It is not what clubs are meant to be.”
The Dee Why RSL Club is considered to be the 11th largest pokies club in New South Wales, with nearly 500 machines. Because of the AU$44.4m that was raked in from punters last year, the venue is undertaking an AU$100m expansion.
Van Duinen, who was a diamond member of the club’s Ambassador Rewards program, would be rewarded points for the money that he lost at the venue. His wife said the amount of this was estimated to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Shortly after Van Duinen’s death, a former gambling-room server by the name of Matthew McGee expounded why he quit the club before the gambler’s death because of the revulsion he felt with the dealings that were being used to entice heavy gamblers to keep on gambling.
McGee added that the venue used the rewards system to maintain a detailed record of spending by big gamblers, which included a profile page and photo so that the gambling-room servers could give them a more personalized service.
This included answering a buzzer call that alerted staff and supervisors that a high priority player has called for service. Not only that, but the rewards meant the gamblers didn’t have to pay for any drinks, which many may consider a form of gambling reward with alcohol.
After Van Duinen’s death, the Liquor & Gaming NSW conducted an investigation. As a result, the New South Wales government agency has filed a formal disciplinary complaint with the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA).
According to Reverend Tim Costello, who is the spokesman for The Alliance for Gambling Reform, the club should face the consequences with significant charges placed against it. The ILGA has the power to impose fines of up to AU$550,000, and to change, suspend, or cancel the club’s license.