Endeavour to use algorithms, facial recognition to tackle problem gamblers

Australia’s largest drinks and hotels business Endeavour Group has unveiled plans to use predictive algorithms and facial recognition to identify problem gamblers across its network, as part of its broader corporate responsibility and sustainability strategy.

The company, which owns and operates BWS, Dan Murphy’s and around 300 hotels and pubs, has also confirmed it has no intention of opening a new Dan Murphy’s site in Darwin after controversial plans to open a store near a number of dry Indigenous communities was axed earlier this year.

Endeavour Drinks CEO Steve Donohue. Credit:Eamon Gallagher

In June, an independent panel advised that Endeavour, which was owned by Woolworths at the time, should not proceed with building the site after it was determined the company had failed to consider the significant negative effects the store would have had on the city’s Aboriginal community and placed profits above all else.

Steve Donohue, Endeavour’s chief executive, told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald a Darwin Dan Murphy’s store was not in consideration, with the business announcing a new community advisory committee would be established in Darwin next year to explore initiatives that would reduce the harm caused by drinking and problem gambling in the community.

“We’ve already got a number of stores and hotels that operate in Darwin,” he said. “So it’s completely outside the topic of Dan Murphy’s, it’s more an exercise in us being thoughtful about how we can be responsive to the needs of the community.

“We’ve appointed a full-time Darwin-based [senior advisor] to support this work. They will be responsible for helping us develop and set up the committee, engaging with the local community and supporting work streams and initiatives.”

“We thought that was the appropriate thing to do in Darwin off the back of some of the learnings that we’ve had from the independent panel review.”

Mr Donohue’s comments come as Endeavour unveiled a new sustainability plan on Monday, the company’s first after de-merging from Woolworths in June. It contains a significant focus on reducing the harm caused by the products Endeavour sells, namely alcohol and gambling.

One of the ways the company plans to tackle this includes a roll-out of facial recognition and predictive algorithms to support self-exclusion programs for problem gamblers or drinkers and “allow for staged and targeted interventions”. Endeavour is already trialling these programs through its Jimmy Brings alcohol delivery service.

Endeavour operates over 12,000 poker machines across the country and has said it would look to increase its gaming footprint following the demerger. Mr Donohue said the business was not looking to cut back the number of machines it has, saying instead he believed the best approach was a reactive one.

Endeavour will look to use algorithms and facial recognition to pinpoint problem gamblers.Credit:Peter Braig

“What we’ve done is take seriously our role in supporting better outcomes for people that might be at risk of harm from the products and services we offer. I think that is a prudent approach for an organisation like ours,” he said.

“We recognise that problem drinking and gambling are complex community issues, and we take our obligations to promote responsible drinking and gambling, and harm minimisation, very seriously.”

Endeavour’s sustainability plan also includes a commitment for 100 per cent renewable energy across the business by 2030, and net-zero emissions by 2050. The company is also targeting a 40:40:20 diversity balance in senior leadership by 2030, a policy which aims for a composition of 40 per cent women, 40 per cent men and 20 per cent of any gender.

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