Mystery shopper - recognition of good practice in class 4 venue

The mystery shopper exercise highlighted some stand-out practices of responding to signs of gambling harm within class 4 venues. We would like to share these examples of good practice with everyone.

We would like to acknowledge and commend venue operators and staff at the following venues for their high level of gamble host responsibility:

  • The Corner, Wellington
  • Rangitikei Tavern, Bulls
  • Springlands Tavern, Marlborough
  • Rattle & Hum, Nelson
  • Oxley's Bar & Kitchen, Picton
  • Poachers Hoon Hay, Christchurch

These venues showed a high level of care and awareness of gamblers displaying signs of harm by meeting full expectations for their scenarios during the 2016 mystery shopper exercise.

Staff at The Corner displayed effective monitoring processes by using their venue log books to capture and monitor a family member’s concerns about a gambler as well as the gambler’s play. (scenario 4)

The Rangitikei Tavern staff showed a high level of care and awareness of gamblers displaying signs of harm around multiple cash withdrawals ending in EFTPOS declines. Staff checked in with the gambler, provided help-seeking material and wrote the incident up in the venue log book. (scenario 2)

Staff at Springlands Tavern showed a good culture of care regarding interaction with the mystery shopper about EFTPOS transactions, referring the situation upwards to the manager and making a written observation. (scenario 2)

Staff at Rattle & Hum showed a good standard of gamble host responsibility towards a gambler who was playing for a long time. Help-seeking advice was offered and the incident was recorded in venue log books. (scenario 3)

Staff at Oxley’s Bar and Kitchen met the full expectations and showed a high level of care and awareness of a gambler displaying signs of harm during an extended period. Oxley’s illustrates how a venue can provide a culture of care for gambling patrons and suggest the venue can be used as a role model regarding how to interact and intervene with a gambler showing signs of potential harmful gambling. (scenario 3)

The staff at Poachers Hoon Hay showed a good standard of gamble host responsibility and we commend their culture of care which is reflected in their result of meeting the expectations. Staff provided advice to a concerned family member, and then recorded and monitored the gambler's play when they entered the venue. (scenario 4)

It is this sort of practice that will lead us to achieve our shared objective of minimising gambling harm through caring for venue customers.

Mystery shopper - practice to be avoided in class 4 venues

Along with the good, the mystery shopper identified some practice that has to be avoided. These practices fall into three broad categories:

Giving incorrect information

When encountering a request from a family member to help a problem gambler, some venue staff told the family member that there was nothing they could do unless the person chose to self-exclude. Some did not accept the photograph of the gambler for future identification and monitoring. In fact, if, upon observation of the gambler, the staff has ongoing concerns about a gambler, they can issue an exclusion order.

Lack of monitoring

Some mystery shoppers observed little (three times in four hours) or no staff presence (for up to three hours) in the gaming rooms. Gaming room sweeps are a key tool for observing and monitoring gambling harm.

Inappropriate staff behavior

Some staff were seen to play the machines when on duty and bragging about their winnings. Some staff pretended to rub the machines to give it good vibes. Others told patrons that they “gotta get the lucky machines”.

Summary of key legal obligations for class 4 harm minimisation

In view of the above, we offer a brief reminder of minimum obligations for harm minimisation under the Gambling Act. For a complete listing of harm minimisation legal obligations, see the Gambling Act 2003 and Gambling (Harm Prevention and Minimisation) Regulations 2004.

Policy is practice

Venues must have a venue-based policy on how they will minimise harm and identify problematic gambling behaviour [s 308(1)].

The venue manager must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the policy is used to identify actual or potential harm [s 308(4)].

A trained person is always present

There must always be a trained person at the venue when class 4 gambling is available [regulation 12(1)(a), Gambling (Harm Prevention and Minimisation) Regulations 2004].

Training builds capable staff

Problem gambling awareness training must be provided to venue staff and must enable staff to:

  • approach a player when they have reasonable grounds to believe the player may be experiencing difficulties related to gambling;
  • provide information to a player about the characteristics of problem gambling (including recognised signs of problem gambling);
  • provide information to a player about the potential dangers of problem gambling;
  • provide information to a player about how to access problem gambling services;
  • remind a player that the venue manager may identify a person that the manager has reasonable grounds to believe is a problem gambler and ban the player from the gambling area of the venue concerned for up to two years; and
  • remind a player that he or she can identify himself or herself as a problem gambler and request that the venue manager exclude the player from the gambling area of the venue for up to two years [regulation 12(2) Gambling (Harm Prevention and Minimisation) Regulations 2004].

All reasonable steps are taken

A venue manager, or a person acting on their behalf, must take all reasonable steps to assist a patron, including issuing an exclusion order, if:

  • they have already approached the person and provided information or advice to the person about problem gambling; and
  • the patron has not requested that they be issued with an exclusion order; and
  • the patron’s ongoing gambling or other behaviour at the venue means that the venue staff still have reasonable grounds to believe that the person is a problem gambler (s 309).

Exclusion orders (self-excluded and venue-issued) are tools to protect patrons from gambling harm

Staff must issue an exclusion order promptly to a patron who wishes to be excluded(s 310).

There is no legal requirement for the patron to sign the exclusion order.

Staff may issue an exclusion order to someone identified by venue staff as a possible problem gambler, but who refuses to self-exclude (s 309), and can do so if they have ongoing concerns about a gambler (s 309A).

Records of excluded persons must be maintained at venues and contain the following information:

  • the person’s name and date of birth (if provided); and
  • whether the person was excluded from the venue under section 309 (venue initiated exclusion) or 310 (self-exclusion); and
  • the date on which the exclusion order was issued and the date of its expiry; and
  • any conditions imposed on the person’s re-entry to the venue (s 312A).

(SOURCE: Department of Internal Affairs, Gambits:NOW, 3 August 2017)