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Dee Why RSL club gambler Gary Van Duinen’s widow pushes for gambling reform

A widow says pubs and clubs are not taking enough responsibility for gambling after her husband lost $3.7million and eventually took his life after a 13-hour losing binge on the pokies.   

Gary Van Duinen took his own life after he lost $200,000 during a poker machine binge across a number of Sydney northern beaches clubs in one June night in 2018.

His wife Sonia says her late husband was treated like royalty after being given ‘diamond’ high roller status at Dee Why RSL on Sydney’s northern beaches.

The club was later fined $200,000 for encouraging the ‘misuse and abuse of gambling activities’.

‘They literally rolled out a red carpet for him, gave him wonderful treatment for being such a big spender and it’s heartbreaking,’ Ms Van Duinen told ABC. 

Mrs Van Duinen says her husband was pampered with Sydney Harbour cruises as well as free drinks and food.

‘He didn’t want to go anywhere else — he said, ‘Why would we bother when we can eat and drink for free and be treated like kings and queens?’ 

As his condition spiralled out of control, Mrs Van Duinen said she pleaded with the club to help her husband.

‘They could see how much he was spending and they did nothing.’ 

Mr Van Duinen began his spiral into addiction after he won $60,000 in just two weeks a couple of years before.

As time went on so did Mr Van Duinen’s losing streak.

On the night he left Dee Why RSL for the last time he had lost a combined total of $3.7million over two years. 

He caught a taxi and the driver dropped him off near a suburban reserve and his body was found six days later by a search and rescue team.  

NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority launched an investigation and fined Dee Why RSL $200,000.

Patrons are able to voluntarily exclude themselves from venues if they think they have a problem.

Ms Van Duinen said addicts generally couldn’t tell they had a problem and the system didn’t work. 

Under NSW gambling legislation, all pokie venues must also provide the contact details to a gambling counselling service.

All staff that are involved in pokies are required to undertake a Responsible Conduct of Gambling course.

Among other techniques to prevent problem gambling, the RCG course teaches ways to identify signs of problem gambling and how to approach someone they might think has a problem.

A Responsible Gambling Fund 2020 study found that staff who are trained to spot red flags rarely step in.

For confidential support call the Lifeline 24-hour crisis support on 13 11 14. 

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