Faced with mounting criticism caused by tabloid gambling news stories about problem gamers, lawmakers in South Australia have seen it fit to introduce some new regulations relating to slot machines, which will be voted on in May.
Australian gambling laws currently allow up to 40 pokies (as slots are called in Aussie slang) to be operated in gambling halls, bars and other locations.
The new proposal divides business locations, which may operate pokies into two categories.
Major establishments will have the current cap of 40 machines raised to 60, but the apparent easing comes with several strings attached. The most important is something called “mandatory pre-commitment”, which means that gamblers must set their own daily spending limit before they sit down to spin the reels.
This will be accomplished with the use of technology, which will mean some extra expenses for the operators.
Another requirement relying on technological advances is automated risk monitoring (by 2017), whereby the slot machine software watches for behavioral patterns that indicate the possibility of problem gambling.
Minor venues will have the number of machines capped at 20, with restrictions that prevent them from competing as quasi casinos: earlier closing hours, no loyalty programs, no automated coin machines.
All venues will be required to cut maximum bets in half, to AUD 5.
“We will have fewer venues and all of those venues will be better policed. People who have problems with gambling will be identified far more quickly,” said Attorney-General John Rau.
The South Australian Council of Social Service welcomed the proposal. “We hope some smaller venues will sell off their entitlements and focus on their core hospitality business,” said SACOSS executive director Ross Womersley.
While the changes may help to address some aspects of questionable gambling behavior, it may also simply push more players towards mobile casino gambling, where such restrictions are largely absent.