Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pokies target addicts, inquiry told

Poker machine guidelines in South Australia could soon be made much tougher following an inquiry into the features that are claimed to make them addictive.

The inquiry heard submissions from problem gamblers, the casino and the Gaming Manufacturers Association.

Former gambler Sue Pinkerton told the inquiry she blew $60,000 on the pokies in three years.

She says she lied to her family, averaged two or three hours of sleep a night and was suicidal.

"The machines are fast, they have various features which convince the player that winning is not only possible but it's highly likely," she said.

"It played over and over in my head much like a catchy tune does."

The features are the subject of an inquiry by the Independent Gambling Authority to review state regulations on poker machine designs.

Local study

The inquiry was presented with a local study that has highlighted the relationship between problem gamblers and machines that have so-called bonus features, allowing the player to bet on multiple lines.

Gambling researcher Dr Charles Livingstone says these features encourage problem gamblers.

"Certain aspects of these games are likely to exacerbate difficulties that people experience and they certainly encourage people to spend large amounts of money on them," he said.

Former No-Pokies MP and senator-elect Nick Xenophon says Australians lose $10 billion a year on poker machines.

"Something like $5 billion a year comes from problem gamblers, that's why we need to radically reconfigure the way these machines operate," he said.

But the Australasian Gaming Machine Manufacturers Association argues that the state's guidelines are already too restrictive and there is no evidence that machine features make addictions worse.

Robert Chappell from the Independent Gambling Authority told the inquiry poker machine guidelines need updating.

"We're still working with the original set of guidelines from 2003 so it's timely that there would be some change," he said.

"There's certainly been some movement in the market and people have expressed views on how they operate and that's why we're having the consultation today."

Independent MP Kris Hanna will introduce a bill in parliament this week to ban machines highlighted in the study.


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