Woolworths shareholders reject pokies bet limit
Woolworths shareholders have overwhelmingly voted down a proposal to install a $1 bet limit on the company's 12,000 poker machines.
Activist group GetUp earlier this year secured an Extraordinary General Meeting to vote to change the company's constitution that would make all the pokies owned by the company, about 6 per cent of all pokies in Australia, have a $1 bet limit. In Victoria pokies have a $5 bet limit, in NSW it is $10.
GetUp and other pokies reformers believe a $1 bet limit is the best way to curb problem gambling on pokies, with a 2010 Productivity Commission report on problem gambling suggesting $1 bets as a good option to help reduce problem gambling.
The resolution would have capped hourly losses at $120 per machine and limited operating hours for pokies to 18 hours-a-day.
At the EGM in Adelaide this morning, held before the Annual General Meeting, 2.5 per cent of shareholders backed the the proposal (13,708,074 votes to 529,131,129).
Woolworths chairman James Strong had previously written to shareholders urging them to vote against the bet limit as it would put Woolworths ''at a significant competitive disadvantage'' as other operators would not have the limit.
''There is no conclusive evidence that the measures proposed in the resolution will have any impact on problem gambling in Australia,'' Mr Strong wrote last month.
''Restrictions applying only to our venues will simply drive patrons to alternative venues ... and achieve nothing in reducing harm.''
GetUp said the EGM was an emotional event with ''victims'' of pokies asking why the company refused to adopt $1 bets.
"By opposing these sensible measures the Woolworths board and the institutional investors have chosen money over morality," GetUp National Director Sam McLean said.
"This company had the opportunity to embrace reforms that would protect thousands of Australians, but instead it chose business as usual.
"By rejecting these reforms the company may continue to make short term profits, but they will damage their brand in the longer term."