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no surprise (to us) that problem gamblers were over- benefit to anybody.
represented in the survey sample of 418 people, of Anti-gambling zealots have claimed for years that
whom 27% were problem gamblers and another 25% Australia has 20% of the world’s gaming machines. The
were ‘at risk’ gamblers. reality is that a recent World Count survey showed that
Although this is clearly a biased sample, it didn’t Australia has 2.4% of the world’s gaming machines.
stop our “expert” applying the research findings to Even the 2.4% statistic is probably overstated, as
the whole Australian population. only those machines whose numbers could be reliably
In another example, a self-styled “expert” was paid verified were included. The researchers quite rightly
handsomely for research which found four games in one relied on figures supplied by governments or otherwise
State showed “a likelihood of exacerbation of gambling- reliable sources for the purposes of the survey report,
derived harm”. What a surprise it must have been when so the actual figure is more likely less than 2%.
we pointed out that two of those four games are, in fact,
identical (except for a different name, necessary because The Cost of Political Zealotry
they run on different hardware). And again, when we During 2008, two Federal Senators have strongly
pointed out that the researcher himself had found the opposed gambling by introducing several Bills in
machines in question do not have unique characteristics presumably well-intentioned attempts to address
that distinguish them from other machines. problem gambling. These Bills would see gaming
machines restricted to casinos and race tracks; with
“World’s Best” all 187,000 gaming machines removed from their
Critics have played the old “world’s best” card very current location in 5,800 clubs and hotels.
often during 2008. According to “experts”, Australia The Bills ignore the 2,200 people employed by
has the world’s fastest, hungriest, highest intensity gaming machine manufacturing companies in
gaming machines. Of course, this conveniently Australia – and an estimated 200,000 people whose
ignores a few facts. livelihoods rely, either directly or indirectly, on
Australian gaming machines are not approved for gaming machines in clubs and hotels. They ignore
supply if they include autoplay or play-through. So more than AU$5 billion in annual government
unlike everywhere else in the world, players in revenue. They ignore the consumer gains from access
Australia (and New Zealand) have to wait until the reel to a service that gives people enjoyment.
spin is completed before they can play again – which The Bills would deny the average Australian the
makes these gaming machines, the world’s slowest. opportunity to stake a dollar or two on the chance of
The maximum bet in Australia is typically $10 or a win; the subsidies that gaming provides for food
less – which makes them among the world’s least and beverages in their favourite hospitality venue; the
“hungry”. There’s a range of game design restrictions funds to refurbish and lift the standards of service in
including randomness limits, probability limits, their local community’s social centre; and the flow of
minimum reel spin rates, free game limits, win funds to government revenue which is most likely
truncation restrictions, linearity checks, graphical applied to supporting the cost of health, education
content restrictions and artwork standards to name and law enforcement.
just a few – which makes Australian gaming machines History is littered with examples of the elite classes
some of the world’s least “intense”. imposing their own standards of conduct on the rest
No gaming machines enter the marketplace in of the population. In this case, the elitists don’t think
Australia without undergoing comprehensive testing money played on a gaming machine is “spent”, they
and technical review. Manufacturers deliver every think it’s “lost”. They probably can’t conceive of
aspect of design, development, manufacture and winning a bet against the odds. And they probably
operation in comprehensive submissions to can’t imagine what it’s like to enjoy a good night out
independently licensed testing laboratories and to having a bet with friends.
government regulatory authorities, before any The Gaming Technologies Association gave
machine is approved for use. Once installed, every evidence at public hearings conducted recently as
gaming machine is electronically monitored and part of an inquiry into proposed legislation. We called
critical information provided to regulatory authorities for the establishment of a new ongoing national
to ensure each machine operates in accordance with research body to conduct a more comprehensive and
its approvals. High intensity? I don’t think so. objective research program than the plethora of anti-
All Australian states have now imposed a limit on gambling academic nonsense available today.
the number of gaming machines. What’s really All matters related to research should be published
interesting about that is the prevalence rates of – reasons for developing research agenda, project
problem gambling are about the same in each state – definition, selection criteria, research methodologies,
even though some states have at least twice as many qualifications and experience of researchers, peer
gaming machines per person than others. review reports, stakeholder consultation, the cost of
One state (South Australia) legislated to reduce the each project and to whom such payments are made,
number of gaming machines by 20% in 2005 (from among other matters. All research should be
15,000 to 12,000) in an ill-informed attempt to conducted transparently and objectively.
address problem gambling. Overall revenue then Maybe then we could all agree on a set of
increased slightly and there is no evidence of any benchmarks and move forward.
40 NOVEMBER 2008
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