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A pub owner is under investigation over claims poker machine addicts were fed free booze and weekly cash handouts up to $1,050 to keep them hooked on gambling.  

Two pokie players and a former employee of Marlow Hotel Group – which owns several Sydney bars – claim the company offered problem gamblers perks to entice them back to their pubs.

Under NSW legislation, prizes and promotions for poker machine players are permitted so long as they remain under $1,000 in value and cannot be exchanged for cash. 

However, the trio allege hardcore punters were given secretive reward cards with a $150 daily credit, which could be withdrawn as cash or used to buy food or cigarettes. 

They claim the daily allowance was comprised of three $50 amounts for players to use at three of their venues: The Bank Tavern in Kogarah, Intersection Hotel in Ramsgate, and the Royal Hotel in Carlton. 

Marlow Hotel Group, which owns Royal Hotel (pictured), the Bank Tavern, and Intersection Hotel is under investigation over allegations of illegal gambling reward schemes

Marlow Hotel Group, which owns Royal Hotel (pictured), the Bank Tavern, and Intersection Hotel is under investigation over allegations of illegal gambling reward schemes

Marlow Hotel Group, which owns Royal Hotel (pictured), the Bank Tavern, and Intersection Hotel is under investigation over allegations of illegal gambling reward schemes 

Marlow Hotel Group boss Jason Marlow said the cards were no longer in operation, telling the Daily Telegraph ‘the loyalty program is not in existence – it was abandoned more than three years ago in 2019’.

Liquor and Gaming NSW launched a probe into the company to determine whether any laws were breached. 

The scheme was allegedly available to about 15 to 20 players at each of the pubs.  

The former employee said big spenders were provided with lots of free beverages and food ‘that was just run off as wastage or promotion/miscellaneous on the books’.

He said it was difficult to see patrons leaving broken after haemorrhaging large amounts of cash, with some people losing $10,000 in a session.

‘A woman came in who inherited a nice house on a corner block in Kogarah,’ he said.

‘It was probably worth more than $1 million. She sold the house and three years later she was broke because she gambled everything.’ 

Marlow Hotel Group boss Jason Marlow (pictured) said the loyalty program was 'abandoned in 2019'

Marlow Hotel Group boss Jason Marlow (pictured) said the loyalty program was 'abandoned in 2019'

Marlow Hotel Group boss Jason Marlow (pictured) said the loyalty program was ‘abandoned in 2019’

A married father who said he lost $1 million to pokies over the past decade said the ‘appalling’ cards led to him gambling more. 

He said the alleged scheme was well known around the pubs allegedly involved, although it was kept hush-hush. 

Another former patron said they lost $600,000 between 2015 to 2020, mainly at the three bars, and the alleged cash handouts did not compare to how much money bigtime players put through the machines.

They said they called the pub and requested self-exclusion, however, they were still let in to the Carlton pub. 

Liquor and Gaming NSW said it ‘is reviewing this matter to determine if the rewards scheme breaches the Gaming Machines Act’.

‘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,’ it said.

A former employee claims big spenders were given free food, drinks, and cash handouts to entice them back to the venue. Pictured: Royal Hotel Carlton

A former employee claims big spenders were given free food, drinks, and cash handouts to entice them back to the venue. Pictured: Royal Hotel Carlton

A former employee claims big spenders were given free food, drinks, and cash handouts to entice them back to the venue. Pictured: Royal Hotel Carlton

‘The prizes must not be cash or be able to be exchanged or redeemed for cash.’

The regulator said venues were also prohibited from providing alcohol as an inducement to gamble or to gamble more frequently.

‘Liquor and Gaming NSW regularly monitors venues’ rewards schemes to ensure they are lawful and do not increase risks of gambling-related harm,’ it said.  

Parramatta Rose and Crown Hotel, which is also owned by the Marlow Hotel Group, was fined $107,358 in February after allegedly loaning money from the safe to gamblers and offering free alcohol and cigarettes.

The Liquor and Gaming NSW investigation found the venue gave $145,000 in credit and debit withdrawals from the bar’s eftpos machine between 2017 and 2018.  

Daily Mail Australia contacted Marlow Hotel Group for comment. 

Source: DailyMail

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