The government of Victoria, Australia, thought it was given a perfect solution to reduce problem gambling. Instead of putting the onus on casinos, which proved inept at managing the concept, it would place it on gamblers. While the idea initially gained a lot of support, it will now be scrapped, at least temporarily, according to media outlet The Age. Upon further review, the option was found to be less likely to succeed than if casinos managed responsible gambling policies.
Crown Debacle Leads to Industry Shake-up
Ray Finkelstein, QC headed the royal commission into Crown last year in Victoria. He recommended new rules to help problem gamblers reduce their losses. These included mandatory precommitment limits on how much money and time they spend playing the casino’s electronic gaming machines (EGM).
The Victoria government raised AU$844 million ($602 million) in taxes from the EGMs in 2019-20 and another $149 million ($106 million) in casino taxes. Despite the windfall, the government initially supported all of Finkelstein’s recommendations. However, it is believed that the Department of Justice and Community Safety resisted the precommitment recommendation.
It is believed that the department highlighted a similar mandatory system in Canada, which was implemented in Nova Scotia in 2012 and then abandoned two years later. This was in response to criticism that the Canadian scheme did not tackle problem gambling and that it was open for abuse. There was also evidence that many players were using precommitment cards to help them or that multiple cards were being used simultaneously by the same players.
New Tactic Needed
The commission discovered that YourPlay, the government’s voluntary precommitment program, was “not successful,” with a low take-up rate, and no required action when the spending limit was reached.
Commissioner Finkelstein suggested that the YourPlay system should be replaced by a “full, mandatory, binding, precommitment system for Australian residents gambling on EGMs at the Melbourne casino.”
He suggested that players be able to set weekly and monthly loss limits as well as limits to the time they spend playing EGMs. They would also be prohibited from playing EGMs for longer than 12 hours per 24-hour period under the new overhaul. It would make Victoria the most stringent mandatory precommitment rule in Australia if it were implemented.
However, with the revelation that similar systems have been futile, the Victorian government is forced to head back to the drawing board. While responsible gambling is an intrinsic part of the industry, it doesn’t have to be the sole focus. Gambling addiction is not on the rise in Australia, according to a number of studies, which means that some are making an issue seem far worse than it actually is.
The Victorian government is expected to take up the topic of responsible gambling regulations again later this year.