Problem gambling solution in Australia

Aussie politicians make a deal

The tenuous hold on political power of the Labour government in Australia has resulted in some interesting political horse trading, with prime ministerial hopeful Julia Gillard striking a deal with Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie last week regarding problem gambling.

In return for Wilkie's support, Gillard has pledged to tackle problem gambling, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. Gillard has agreed to pressure the Australian territories into fitting the notorious Australian pokie machines in land establishments with devices that limit player losses.

The deal suggests that under a re-elected Labour government, every poker machine in Australia will eventually be installed with smart cards, allowing players to decide in advance how much they want to spend. Once that limit had been reached, it stops them playing.

The Problem Gambling Foundation in neighbouring New Zealand praised the agreement and the technology this week: "What a fantastic initiative, good on Australia," chief executive Graeme Ramsey said. "This is a real piece of consumer empowerment, as it requires people to set limits before they start."

Ramsey said the technology was very effective in helping problem gamblers stick to a limit, pre-determined by no-one but themselves.

He added that 80 percent of clients seen at the foundation had problems with pokies. Last year, NZ$889 million was lost by gamblers to poker machines outside casinos - about NZ$2.57 million each day, according to figures from the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs.

Officials of the department are watching developments with interest, whilst pointing out that New Zealand does take problem gambling precautions. These include a pop-up feature required on every gaming machine in New Zealand since last year, which offer some benefits of player tracking and a pre-commitment system.

The "player information displays" interrupt every 30 minutes of play, to tell the player how long they have been playing, how much they have spent and their net wins and losses.

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