The Australian national government’s Productivity Commission has completed its draft report on the state of legal gambling within the country. The 630-page report addresses what it considers to be the most important aspects of gambling as it affects the society and suggests measures to mitigate any negative impact.
The new document gives an update on the 1999 Productivity Commission report on gambling, and includes new research on what Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs Chris Bowen, who requested the report, called “harm minimization measures.”
The report gives a lot of attention to slot machines, which it says account for 65.1 percent of the country’s A$18.2 billion “official” gaming industry. Machines in clubs and hotels provide 58.2
percent, with casino slots contributing only
Of the 5 percent of adults who are said to play slots on at least a weekly basis, 15 percent are classified as problem gamblers. This relatively small group is said to be responsible for somewhere between 20 percent and 60 percent of total gaming machine spend, depending on whose estimate is used.
Citing an example where a gaming machine with a A$10 maximum bet can allow losses of up to A$1,200 an hour, the report suggests lowering the maximum bet per game to A$1 for a resulting maximum loss of A$120 an hour. Limiting to A$20 the amount of cash a player could put into a machine at one time is another recommendation.
Longer shutdown periods for venues are also seen as potentially beneficial to problem gamblers.
ATM placement and limits are also explored in the report, with the conclusion that removal of ATMs from gaming venues could create a whole new set of problems. The commission suggests that action await a future evaluation of the situation in Victoria, which will soon implement just such a ban on ATMs.
One area in which the commission feels the nation could benefit from a degree of liberalization is online gaming. With annual spend estimated at A$790 million-not included in the official A$18.2 billion-online gaming is only being provided by offshore operators. The report suggests that allowing Australians regulated access to online gaming, together with the use of technological tools, would reduce player risk by adding harm minimization features and game integrity.
The final report of the commission is due February 26, 2010.