September 4, 2023 3 min read


Skill-Based Machines Can Increase Problem Gambling, Study Claims

A new study in Australia reveals that electronic gambling machines offering skill-based features may increase problem gambling and gambling harm

Gambling is identified as a public health issue in Australia, considering that hundreds of millions of dollars are lost to the infamous poker machines, also known as pokies. Along with losses comes problem gambling and gambling addiction, mental health issues that can destroy the lives of people and their loved ones.

Now, a new study commissioned by Gambling Research Australia probed into the effect skill-based components of electronic gambling machines (EGMs) may have on gamblers and how they can impact problem gambling and gambling harm. EGMs that include a skill-based feature are referred to in the study as Skill-based Gambling Machines (SGMs). The recent study is titled “Skill-based Gambling in Australia” and it includes a skill-based survey, a skill-based experiment as well as interviews with SGMs gamblers.

But how are EGMs different than SGMs? With EGMs, players rely entirely on chance when it comes to securing prizes. In contrast, SGMs incorporate a skill-based feature that allows players to use their skills rather than rely entirely on chance. In other words, if EGMs use a random number generator to determine the outcome of the game, SGMs add a feature that requires the players to use strategic thinking, physical dexterity or knowledge to boost their chances of winning.

Skill-Based Games Create Heightened Illusions of Control

While SGMs do offer a different form of entertainment than EGMs, the new study uncovered that such games also create “heightened illusions of control over gambling outcomes.” Ultimately, such illusions and the additional complexity of SGMs may impact problem gambling or at-risk gambling, the new study revealed. While such machines undoubtedly bring new opportunities for gambling operators, the research uncovered that they may help increase gambling harm and the risk of problem gambling.

In particular, the skill-based experiment found that these games provide an illusion of control that heightens the impression that gamblers can affect game outcomes, putting people at risk of gambling problems and harm,

reads the new Skill-based Gambling in Australia study

The new study acknowledged that popular EGMs “already account for the majority of gambling problems in Australia.” It added that the addition of skill-based features for EGMs will exacerbate gambling harm across the country.

Given the negative impact SGMs may have, the new study urged for robust regulations that can help protect current, as well as future gamblers from excessive gambling and gambling harm. According to the study, it is imperative for the regulations to be effective and protect vulnerable groups, such as male demographics and younger generations, identified as high risk with association with SGMs.


William Velichkov is a research-driven writer. His strengths lie in ensuring factual accuracy, vetting government documentation and reaching out to regulators and other officials. He is particularly fond of financial reporting, the sports betting industry, B2B partnerships and esports betting developments. William is a strong asset to the GamblingNews team as he adds a bedrock to our reporting.

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