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Opinions Divided on Australian Poker Machine Reforms

Dec 1, 2010
Author: Steven Lock
Opinions Divided on Australian Poker Machine Reforms

Clubs in Australia are balking at a proposal by the country’s Families Minister to collect personal details of video poker players even if they only intend to play the games occasionally.

According to Families Minister Jenny Macklin, players would need to sign up for a prepaid card in order to use any poker machine, even if they only intended to play a single time. Registering for this card would require submitting significant amounts of personal information in order to comply with a mandatory problem-gambling program.

These reforms are opposed by Clubs Australia, an industry group that operates many of the poker machines throughout the country. However, some of those in favor of the move are claiming that the group is overstating the amount of information players would have to give up in order to play, including suggesting that Australia would be keeping a database of player fingerprints.

According to Minister Macklin, it is much more likely that players would receive a swipe card like those casino patrons are already familiar with, and that the registration process wouldn’t be much different than what is required for those.

''This would require players to register, just like they do now for loyalty programs in gaming venues,'' Macklin said.

Other groups have voiced concerns that pensioners and others on welfare programs could have their wins and losses used against them by other branches of the government when benefits are calculated. However, Macklin said that privacy arrangements would be “very strong,” and that there will be no central database of information collected on player activity.

As part of the new reforms, Australian players would be required to pre-commit to spending limits before playing video poker at any club or casino in the country. However, players would have the freedom to set limits as high or low as they like, so play would not be strictly limited. The new technology required to institute these reforms is expected to be used on all poker machines in Australia by 2014 in an effort to reduce problem gambling.

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