Mandatory pre-commitment poker machine technology to go to trial before 2014

Technology to control problem pokie gambling will move to trial ahead of the national laws, Federal Independent MP, Andrew Wilkie says

A trial of mandatory poker machine pre-commitment technology will likely take place ahead of the 2014 introduction of the initiative designed to stop problem gambling, according to federal independent MP Andrew Wilkie.

Speaking at a press conference following the tabling of the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform’s first report, Wilkie said mandatory pre-commitment technology would benefit from state-based trials.

“I think [a trial] would be very helpful and genuinely inform the development of the technologies which are needed for this and to ensure they are the best technologies and to identify any unforseen consequences of these reforms,” he said.

Wilkie said the 2014 deadline for the introduction of the technology did not give enough time for a national technical solution, but did allow enough time for individual states and territories to develop their own pre-commitment technologies to a common set of national standards and design features.

“Remarkably, most of the jurisdictions are operating different operating systems, different communication protocols, and the committee did find and does recommend that over time it would be in the industry’s interest to move toward a national technical framework,” he said.

"But to get this out as quickly as we can we would be happy for the states to develop their own technical fixes as long as it is done to the same national standards and same machines features.”

Placing the onus on states to develop their own solutions was practicable as technical arrangements between states varied greatly and allowing states to come up with their own solutions would be the quickest way to have the technology come into use, Wilkie said.

To date a number of the states have opposed the introduction of tougher controls on gaming machines to tackle problem gambling.

On the issue of a carrying out a cost-benefit analysis of the technology, Wilkie said the argument from critics that the technology would be too costly to implement had made their claims ahead of knowing all the aspects of the pre-commitment plan, the technical solution and its costs.

He added that the highest “credible” estimate from industry of the cost of the technology — $3 billion — was just over half the $5 billion annual amount lost by problem poker machine gamblers. The total annual cost of losses to poker machines annually was $12 billion, Wilkie said.

Commenting on the form the pre-commitment technology would take the MP said again re-affirmed no biometrics would be used. Instead, existing loyalty cards used by many community club members would be the most likely format.

“There won’t be any biometrics employed; it will be a magnetic striped card or a smart card not unlike that in use and carried millions of poker machines players who are currently quite happy to give their name and address and to carry a card in their wallet and put it into the machine when they play,” he said. “There is nothing exceptional about that.”

Wilkie estimated that the cost of problem gambling on poker machines is some $1.64 billion and that there are 95,000 Australians ‘problem gamblers’ and 95,000 Australia gamblers at risk of becoming problem gamblers. He estimated that each of these gamblers affects in some way between five and 10 other Australians.

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