Andrew Wilkie calls for Raiders to reimburse problem gambler as fine looms

Tasmanian anti-poker machine advocate and Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has called for the Raiders club to reimburse an addicted gambler after it was disciplined for failing to record signs she had a gambling problem.

Laurie Brown, who made a complaint against the Raiders after two stints of major gambling and losing $226,050 over 18 months at its Belconnen club, is considering how she will pursue compensation following the Gambling and Racing Commission’s decision. 

However the Raiders club has lashed the independent body’s report and says it will appeal the finding, which it has called “erroneous”.

Mr Wilkie, a fierce supporter of gambling reform, said the club should reimburse Professor Brown and accept the commission’s finding rather than resist it with an appeal. 

He said the gambling commission’s decision to push for a $120,000 fine was appropriate and called the finding a significant moment indicating a new phase in the debate about poker machines in Australia.

“I hope the club and industry will learn from this, that they do have a duty of care to patrons,” he said.

“The industry needs to understand that change is coming.

“There’s now an unprecedented level of concern about poker machine addiction and there’s a real groundswell for reform.”

Clubs risked losing control of the public debate and having change forced on them if they didn’t make reforms themselves, he said.

Professor Brown said the decision vindicated her pursuit of compensation for her losses.

“I think all the clubs in the ACT should sit up and notice,” she said.

“It could set in train other people sitting up and saying ‘this is happening to me’.

“A lot of people in the community remain quiet, and live with the consequences of gambling, and we thought we would like to speak out.

“This has been traumatic to my partner and myself, but we thought if this is bringing about change, then this is good.”

Raiders Club president Simon Hawkins was contacted for comment on Sunday, but has previously rejected the commission’s finding, saying its report on the case was “riddled with errors”.

Clubs are required by law to keep a record of anyone showing signs of problem gambling – signs such as being unable to stop gambling, or making multiple ATM withdrawals.

Professor Brown says she gambled on 160 nights from about 10pm to closing 4am, making 242 cash withdrawals from ATMs and 353 from the club’s eftpos. On some nights she went back six or more times to withdraw more money, losing thousands of dollars on some nights.

After the gambling commission decision, the Raiders had 28 days to appeal to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal or the Supreme Court.