By Clyde Mooney
In a move likely intended to bring about its demise rather than justification, Clubs Australia has volunteered to help initiate a trial of mandatory pre-commitment (MPC) for poker machines.
Despite the recommendations of the 2010 Productivity Commission, the only trials of pre-commitment technology on pokies in Australia have been voluntary, not mandatory.
The virtues of MPC are therefore unverified, which was recognised by the Commission, which contended that trialling should ‘substantiate that full pre-commitment has sufficient advantages over partial pre-commitment to justify proceeding with its implementation in all jurisdictions’.
Professor Alex Blaszczynski, of Sydney University’s Gambling Treatment clinic, suggests that MPC may actually be counter-productive in terms of the treatment of problem gamblers.
“Data indicates that problem gamblers do set higher informal pre-commitment levels compared to recreational gamblers. As a consequence, it exposes gamblers to some potential unintended consequences where, because they have set higher limits, will show a tendency to gamble to those limits resulting in an overall increase in losses,” said Blaszczynski told TheShout.
He added that the psychological difference behind a voluntary versus mandatory scheme will prove highly significant when applied to the practical application of spending limits.
“The fundamental flaw in this system [MPC] is that gamblers determine their own level, and can change these at will subject to a ‘cooling off’ period. This means that a proportion of problem gamblers will have a tendency to set higher limits as a buffer to allow them flexibility or option in continuing their gambling,” said Blaszczynski.
“A voluntary system integrated with treatment services will allow an additional option for problem gamblers motivated to reduce their gambling behaviour. Such a system targets those motivated to comply, avoids imposing unnecessary burdens on the majority of recreational gamblers, and represents a cost-effective way of assisting problem gamblers.”
Clubs Australia has long been in support of a voluntary system, citing a far greater likelihood of reaching the segment of the gambling population that needs help.
Their suggested involvement with a trial of MPC is undoubtedly motivated by the desire to see first-hand that the system doesn’t work as intended.
Clubs’ executive director, Anthony Ball, goes further to demand an end to the disproportionate power being wielded by the member for Denison regarding his deals with the Gillard government.
“The Federal Government must make clear to Andrew Wilkie that its support for mandatory pre-commitment is conditional on the technology being proved in a trial to reduce problem gambling,” said Ball.