Poker machines have been prevalent throughout Australia for decades, but there are a lot of changes taking place, and more slated for the near future that could affect the way you spin the reels at the local pub, hotel or casino. Parliament passed the National Gambling Reform Act of 2012 and state administrators, as well as operators, have been busy implementing the new guidelines, as well as prepping their software to meet the impending standards that will be rolled out in a staggered format over the next few years.
Under the new laws, pokies will be required to integrate an optional ‘Pre-commitment System’. The incorporation of the system is required, but its use by players is optional. It will give users the opportunity to register as a player and set a ‘loss limit’ and ‘limit period’. For example, a player might input that they are willing to lose no more than $1,000 over the next 3 months. Each time they use a poker machine in the State/Territory they registered in, if they login to that registered account before playing, (that is also optional), they will see a record of their losses and how much time is remaining before the limit period expires. If that player happens to lose a total of $1,000 before the limit period ends, they will no longer be allowed to play as a registered user on any machine in that State or Territory.
The new poker machine laws also require ‘dynamic warnings’. When a registered player is using a poker machine, an electronic warning display is required to appear after the player has spent a certain amount of time or lost a certain amount of money while playing one or more pokies. They are to be advised of the ‘potential for harm/cost of using’ gaming machines, and encouraged to take breaks.
ATM Withdrawal Limits
Any non-casino venue that hosts pokies is required to set a limit on the maximum amount a single person can withdrawal from an ATM located on the premises. The current limit is $250 within a 24 hour period. However, this law only applies in States/Territories where other laws are not already in place prohibiting the provision of ATMs at non-casino venues. In addition, the law does not apply to commercial casinos, where higher ATM limits are still permitted. Exemptions may apply if regulators deem fit to grant them.
Time Frame for Enforcement
A specific timeframe in which all pokies must comply with the new laws has been set forth. The pre-commitment system and dynamic warnings must be implemented at all medium sized to large scale gambling establishments by the end of 2016. For smaller venues that host only 11 to 20 gaming machines, the compliance date has been extended to the end of 2020. However, these dates only apply to poker machines that were already in use before 2014. Any new gaming machine that is manufactured or imported after 2013 must comply with the pre-commitment system and dynamic warning regulations before being installed. The restrictions on ATM withdrawal limits at non-casino venues took effect on May 1, 2013.
How effective is Gambling Reform?
The whole idea of the National Gambling Reform Act of 2012 is to reduce problem gambling. The Australian Gambling Research Centre has conducted a strain of studies over the last few years in regards to problem gambling in Australia, and it’s become petty clear that the government needed to step in and rethink its ‘national standards’ towards poker machines. But just how many of the reform’s measures will be effective?
The pre-commitment system could certainly stop conscious problem gamblers who truly wish to be stopped, but the entire process is voluntary on the player’s part. If a compulsive gambler reaches their limit, all they have to do is play again without using their registered account to keep right on spending. It’s a start, yes, but the term ‘compulsive’ is defined as being “driven by an irresistible inner force to do something”. It could take a lot more than elective systems to prevent compulsion behavior.
The dynamic warning system could be a lot more effective since it encourages all poker machine players to take a break, cautioning them against the harms of excessive losses, not just financially, but in their personal relationships with family and friends. But again, it’s up to the player to stop themselves.
Future of Online Pokies in Australia: Mobile Pokies
The laws regarding online pokies have not changed. It is illegal for Australia-based online pokie sites to accept Australian players, and it is illegal for offshore online pokie sites to accept Australia players, but it is not illegal for Australians to play at offshore online pokie sites. Confusing, I know, but the government intentionally extended no penalty to players. The only penalty lies upon the operator, and Australia doesn’t bother going after offshore pokie sites so long as they aren’t causing trouble for their citizens.
While those laws remain intact, there is change coming for the future of online pokies. In past years, the desktop computer or laptop was the preferred method of playing poker machines over the internet. The more recent trend has seen mobile devices usurp their bulkier counterparts with a surge in the use of mobile pokie applications. According to a research study by the Juniper Research group, there are three significant reasons why mobile poker machines will prevail in the coming years – convenience, privacy and ubiquity.
The convenience factor needs no explanation. The privacy aspect is based on the idea that many inexperienced gamblers do not wish to walk into a casino, where everyone else might see them gambling, or they might feel embarrassed by the fact that they aren’t practiced in specific games. Mobile gambling provides a private interface that eliminates the personal fear factor. Ubiquity refers to the fact that mobile devices have spread so rapidly over the last ten years.
The trend first began in the late 1990’s, and continued into the 2000’s. By the end of 2007, mobile presence had exceeded 50% worldwide. Ownership of SIMs was up to 91% of all adults in mid-2013. Ever heard of the phrase, “smoke if you got ‘em”? Maybe it’s about time we replace one vice’s cliché with another.