The NSW gaming regulator is examining the legality of “study tours” offered by gaming machine manufacturers to club managers and directors who buy a minimum number of poker machines for their venues.
Aristocrat Leisure is offering club managers a trip to the gaming conference G2E in Las Vegas with a side trip to Nashville if they buy four poker machines this year, the Herald revealed on Monday. If they buy 40 poker machines, they get 10 tickets. There is a separate offer of tickets to the State of Origin to club managers who buy three poker machines.
Johns Park Bowling Club chief executive David Marsh (second from right) was a guest of Aristocrat on the G2E tour in October.Credit:Facebook
Gaming manufacturers Light and Wonder and IGT offer similar promotions. There are tickets on offer to the Darwin Cup, Melbourne Cup and gaming conferences in London and Macau.
It is illegal for manufacturers to offer club managers a benefit as an inducement to purchase goods or services, or for club managers to accept such a benefit, unless it is clearly set out in a written agreement and comprises the reasonable training of a staff member in the operation and maintenance of approved gaming machines. There is an exception if the benefit is predominantly educational and relates to a “specific and genuine” course of study.
Liquor and Gaming NSW said in a statement it was examining whether the practice was compliant with the Registered Clubs Act. “This will depend on the specific arrangements entered into between each club and the supplier,” the statement said. “Any complaints regarding these arrangements can be lodged with the regulator by visiting www.liquorandgaming.nsw.gov.au.”
The Aristocrat advertisement for the 2023 study tour in Nashville and Las Vegas.
Tour junkets-for-poker machines promotions are an open secret in the gaming industry, and club managers have posted about such travels on their social media accounts. Nick Brabham, the chief executive of the Burpengary Community Club, enthused that he had learnt in the United States to order everything small except his beers. “Now off to educate myself in a few bars!” he wrote.
Another club manager gave an account of the 2017 G2E Tour, which encompassed New York, Las Vegas and Honolulu. On the final day of the tour he described scootcouping around the island, taking in a giant volcano crater, snorkelling at Hanuama Bay and finishing the day with a slice of cheesecake.
Most of the study tours are run by CCM Travel, whose managing director Catherine Mancuso said about half the participants were self-funded while the rest were paid for by gaming companies, though the proportion varied year to year. She did research including site visits to ensure the guests took away strategies they could implement in their businesses at home.
Aristocrat is offering study tours to the State of Origin.
“They do have to comply with the Registered Clubs Act,” Mancuso said. “That’s why I spend time going over them with business managers, making sure that my tours are not just tours. We know that the purpose of the trip is education.”
The NSW government prohibited offers of inducement for the provision of goods and services in 2002, following the prosecution of a sales representative for gaming manufacturer Pacific Gaming for paying $2400 in secret commissions to the director of the Arncliffe Scots Sports and Social Club in 2000.
But the market remains competitive for gaming machine manufacturers. Aristocrat Leisure said in a statement that it had to work hard to retain customers in a highly competitive market, but it remained compliant with the Registered Clubs Act.
“Aristocrat asks all clubs participants in sponsored educational tours, to acknowledge in writing that they are aware of their obligations under relevant gaming legislation, among other probity requirements.”
There is no suggestion that Brabham did not disclose his participation in the G2E tour to his club as required by law. He declined to comment.
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