On January 18, the Australian government announced a plan to introduce a ‘full pre-commitment scheme’ in an effort to reduce the maximum amount of money an individual may lose each day. MP Andrew Wilkie and Senator Nick Xenophon are the primary forces behind modifying Australian gambling laws by this unique approach aimed at combating gambling through behavior modification.
The plan, to be implemented by 2014, will include a universal serial bus (USB) device (about the size of a cigarette lighter) which must be carried by every gambler at all times. The USB device will contain biometric data about the individual along with personal information such as: the total amount of money the person is allowed to lose each day and how often the person is allowed to gamble each month.
Every gambling device in Australia will be modified to contain a USB reader and a fingerprint scanner. To begin gambling, the player must insert their personal USB inside the machine and scan their fingerprint. Every gambling machine and device in Australia will become connected to a central computer that will determine if the government permits the player to gamble or not at that time. If the player is permitted to gamble that day, the central computer will signal the gambling device to accept wagers. Once a limit for the individual is reached for the day, the central government computer will instruct every gambling device in casinos and Australian poker rooms to forbid accepting any more wagers from that player.
The system is expected to cost over $1 billion per year to maintain and over $20 billion to implement. Tax revenue is expected to fall by 60%. Opponents of the system warn that such a proposal will only drive gambling underground to illegal Australian internet casinos.
Anti-gambling politicians argue that digital behavior modification technology would help tackle gambling addiction by reducing spur-of-the-moment losses. The Ministry of Information Productivity Council along with Responsible Gaming Networks enthusiastically support the measure in a joint statement – “Academics have long said that gamblers can’t make rational decisions while gambling. The only way gamblers will make a rational buying decision is by forcing them to ‘cool-off’, away from the gambling device.”
To alleviate privacy concerns, Senator Xenophon promised that “The government doesn’t store your fingerprint; we don’t store your fingerprint; the gambling operator doesn’t store your fingerprint. You store your fingerprint in your personal USB device that you carry with you.”
According to a recent study, Australia contains 20% of the world’s gambling devices, more than any other country, and citizens spend more money on gambling than on gasoline.