Public Health Experts Oppose Victoria’s Pre-commitment System on Pokies

A special pre-commitment system that would allow residents of the Australian state of Victoria to set in advance both loss and time limits on poker machines by means of a card will be introduced in December.

Poker machines or pokies, as they call them, were legalized in Victoria back in 1992. Their number on the territory of the state is currently limited to 30,000. Of those, 2,500 are located in Crown Casino in Melbourne.

In 2013, the state government proposed legislation that called for the introduction of the so-called pre-commitment cards for every single poker machine in Victoria. Legislators pointed out that the technology would encourage responsible gambling.

Overall, the proposal met bipartisan support and was passed into law in 2014. As mentioned above, pokies will be integrated the system in December 2015.

Players will have to insert a card into the poker machine every time they decide to play. The card will make it possible for them to track their spending. Once they reach a certain preset limit, the pokie will disable and they will be asked whether they would like to continue playing or stop immediately. Furthermore, they will be warned when they reach 70% and then 90% of the preliminary set limit.

Players will also be allowed to register online and access their information via their personal computers and mobile devices.

Field testing of the system is expected to start in June. Currently, it is undergoing certain mandatory trials.

The new technology has met strong opposition, due to the fact that players would be able to continue playing even after they have reached the preset limit. According to them, the system is a waste of money and has nothing to do with helping people that show symptoms of gambling addiction.

Dr Charles Livingstone, Senior Lecturer in the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at the Monash University, is among the critics of the “Your Play” system, calling it a “snooze button.” He commented that it should be mandatory and should not allow players to continue playing, once they have reached their limit.

According to Dr Livingstone, players with gambling problems are not likely to use the cards, as usually such people do not want to be aware of how much they have spent on pokies. In other words, the voluntary system will not be as effective as a mandatory one.

Up to now, as much as A$197 million have been spent on the introduction of the technology. It has been funded primarily by the country’s gambling industry, and has been designed by the state Department of Justice and Regulation, together with industry experts and researchers.

Designers of the system said that their main purpose was to create something that would offer players “informed choice.” According to officials, the machines being shut down once punters reach their preset limit will be a “powerful signal” for them to stop playing.

The introduction of the pre-commitment system has been welcomed by operators of pokies across Victoria.

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