Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Reports highlight benefits of poker machine pre-commitment technology

Joint Media Release with:

  • Bill Shorten MP, Assistant Treasurer

New research released today shows pre-commitment technology can be effective in reducing the amount of money problem gamblers spend on poker machines and can help problem gamblers to better manage their spending.

The Australian and South Australian Governments today released the final evaluations of the PlaySmart and ChangeTracker pre-commitment trials conducted in hotels and clubs in metropolitan and regional South Australia.

The South Australian pre-commitment trials provide valuable lessons for the design features and implementation of an effective national pre-commitment scheme.

The trials required players to set and monitor voluntary limits on the amount of money and time spent gambling on poker machines.

The PlaySmart trial – one of the largest trials of pre-commitment conducted in Australia – shows that pre-commitment can be effective in reducing the amount problem gamblers spend on poker machines.

PlaySmart is a card-based pre-commitment system with onscreen warnings to remind players when they have reached their spending limit or time limit and when to take a break from playing.

The study, involving 268 people, found that net turnover on poker machines by problem gamblers using the pre-commitment system decreased by 56 per cent.

Pre-commitment technology did not appear to significantly impact on the spending behaviours of recreational gamblers, where turnover decreased by only five per cent.

The study also found that pre-commitment is an effective way to encourage better money management and more informed spending decisions, particularly by problem gamblers.

Sixty-two per cent of participants agreed that using pre-commitment encouraged them to think about how much they could afford to spend on poker machines, and problem gamblers found it most effective in informing their spending.

The PlaySmart report acknowledges that the participant numbers were limited so findings should be interpreted with caution.

Although the number of participants was low, the ChangeTracker trial, which required the 20 registered players to manually detail their spending habits on a record card each time they played – shows most of the participants wanted to keep track of their spending on poker machines.

The Australian Government provided $260,000 to evaluate the impact of three pre-commitment trials in South Australia. The evaluation of the third trial of an electronic tag device is due in mid-2011.

The 2010 Productivity Commission Report into Gambling found that a pre-commitment scheme is a strong, practicable and ultimately cost-effective option to minimise the harm caused by problem gambling.

We welcome the announcement today by the South Australian Government that PlaySmart pre-commitment technology has now been rolled out to 74 gaming venues across South Australia covering 20 per cent of the state’s gaming machines.

This is another indicator of the willingness of state and territory governments to progress gambling reform in Australia.

The Gillard Government has committed to rolling out a full national pre-commitment scheme by 2014, as part of an agreement on gambling reforms between the Prime Minister and the Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie.

The Australian Government today introduced a resolution, which was passed by the House of Representatives, to establish a Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform.

The Productivity Commission estimates that there are between 80,000 and 160,000 problem gamblers. In addition there are between 230,000 and 350,000 people at moderate risk.

Problem gambling destroys lives – not only the life of the problem gambler but also the lives of their families and friends.

Our reforms will help limit the damaging effects of problem gambling, while continuing to let thousands of Australians enjoy recreational gambling in pubs and clubs.

The PlaySmart and ChangeTracker reports are available on the Treasury website.