'A cowboy industry': club faces disciplinary hearing following man's death after gambling binge

The Dee Why RSL Club faces a disciplinary hearing following an investigation into allegations of irresponsible gambling practices after the death of one of its customers last year.

Gary Van Duinen died by suicide after an all-night gaming binge at the club that occurred after family members begged the club to help curb his gambling.

Liquor & Gaming NSW has completed an investigation and as a result lodged a formal disciplinary complaint with the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA).

According to Mr Van Duinen’s mother, Joy, by the end of his life her son was commonly spending up to 13 hours at the club’s poker machines, and had destroyed both his business and his marriage.


Both she and Mr Van Duinen’s estranged wife had asked the club for help.

The morning after he failed to return home from his gambling binge Mrs Van Duinen went to the club to look for him and ask for help. His body was later found in nearby bushland.

“They do not care. All they care about is the money going into their machines and into their coffers,” said Mrs Van Duinen of the Dee Why RSL Club yesterday.

“Clubs have become so much like casinos that you can’t tell the difference. Now they are building a new whopping great building down there from the tax breaks and the gambling money. It is not what clubs are meant to be.”

Since her son’s death a year ago this Friday, Mrs Van Duinen, has campaigned for poker machine reform in NSW, and she continues to call for the machines to be slowed down and for minimum bets in NSW to be reduced. Mr Van Duinen’s ashes will be scattered in a ceremony on Saturday.

The ILGA can impose formal reprimands, change, suspend or cancel the club’s licence or levy fines of up to $550,000 where it finds practices have encouraged the misuse and abuse of gambling.

Reverend Tim Costello, spokesman for The Alliance for Gambling Reform, said he believed the club should face significant punitive measures.

“I believe the Dee Why RSL’s conduct was so egregious towards the late Gary Van Duinen, that they should have their licence to operate a NSW pokies venue suspended for at least six months, plus suffer the maximum $500,000 fine,” he said.

“This is a cowboy industry which won’t ever learn to be responsible until the NSW government and the regulator breaks free from industry capture and proves they can fearlessly govern this industry to stamp out predatory behaviour.

“The DEE Why RSL is the 11th biggest pokies club in NSW with 494 machines and is currently embarking on a $100 million expansion after taking $44.4 million from gamblers in 2018 and declaring a profit of $11.5 million on total revenue of $67.4 million.

“It can well afford to suffer a multi-million reduction in its 2019 profit through a meaningful suspension of its pokies operating licence which would serve as a wake-up call to the industry."

Dee Why RSL and Clubs NSW declined to comment while the matter remained before ILGA.

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