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An investigation has been launched into a hotel group which has been accused of bribing poker addicts to keep them gambling.
Two poker players and a former employee have come forward with accusations about the pub owners.
They have accused the Australian group of giving out free food, alcohol and even weekly cash handouts of up to $1,050 to those with gambling problems in a bid to keep them coming back.
The three accusers have claimed they were able to buy food and cigarettes with rewards cards they received and given a daily credit of $150, Mail Online reports.
The allegations were made in relation to three of the Marlow Hotel Group's chains: The Royal Hotel in Carlton, The Bank Tavern in Kogarah and the Intersection Hotel in Ramsgate.
New South Wales legislation states that promotions and prizes are allowed. However, they cannot be returned for cash and must total no more than $1,000.
Jason Marlow, the company's boss, noted the loyalty cards were 'in existence' until 2019, but had been 'abandoned'.
When the scheme was in place, only 15 to 20 players at each pub - made up mostly of visitors who spent the most money - had access to it.
The former employee explained how difficult it was to see gamblers losing so much money, with some cases seeing figures as much as $10,000 lost.
"A woman came in who inherited a nice house on a corner block in Kogarah. It was probably worth more than $1 million. She sold the house and three years later she was broke because she gambled everything," he said.
By way of consolation, free food and drinks were given to high-paying customers 'that was just run off as wastage or promotion/miscellaneous on the books'.
However, one customer and gambler voiced the opinion that the loyalty cards simply encouraged more spending, calling the scheme 'appalling'.
Another noted the cards didn't even begin to cover the amount of money many lost during time spent at the three pubs.
Some customers rung up to get themselves self-excluded. Despite this, the Carlton pub reportedly still let them in.
Government agency Liquor and Gaming NSW has announced it is 'reviewing this matter to determine if the rewards scheme breaches the Gaming Machines Act'.
It continued: "In some circumstances, venues can operate a rewards scheme whereby gaming machine players can gain points to be redeemed for promotional prizes valued at less than $1,000.
"The prizes must not be cash or be able to be exchanged or redeemed for cash."
It also reflected that the use of alcohol to encourage more frequent gambling is also banned at the venues.
The agency concluded: "Liquor and Gaming NSW regularly monitors venues’ rewards schemes to ensure they are lawful and do not increase risks of gambling-related harm."
LADbible has contacted Marlow Hotel Group for comment.
For help, support and advice about problem gambling, contact the National Gambling Helpline anytime on 0808 8020 133
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