The YourPlay system was set up last December and offered punters the chance to preset limits on how much they were willing to lose on the pokies. This $197 million program to help problem gamblers track their poker machine losses and stop playing has seen just 8000 people formally register in its first six months from Victoria state. A special card is required to access the system which is installed on all Victorian pokies. When players reach their limit a message is sent to their terminal urging them to consider their gambling habits punters can set their own warning message such as “Go home” or “time to stop, think of the kids.”
Data from the Victorian government shows that 23,400 pre-commitment cards have been activated since December last year out of which only 8130 are registered. The remaining 15,000 are unregistered casual use cards and it is unknown how many people account for the casual card use or whether a group of people are repeatedly using unregistered cards on a session-by-session basis.
The voluntary pre-commitment has been savaged by gambling reformers because punters that reach their limit can still choose to play on. One expert, Monash University’s Dr Charles Livingstone, last year described the system as a“snooze button” for problem gamblers because punters were able to ignore their limits.
A landmark study last year found that 15.2 per cent of all Victorians played the state’s 30,000 pokies in 2014 – there are just under 6 million people living in the state. The same study found that more than 35,000 gamblers in Victoria were addicts, with a further 122,400 Victorians impacted by someone else’s problem gambling. Victorians lost more than $2.5 billion on the pokies in the 2014-2015 financial year.
Every poker machine in Victoria is linked to the system so limits can be triggered regardless of what venue a punter is in. Minister for Gaming and Liquor Regulation Jane Garrett said in the scheme’s first six months more than 2.5 million responsible gambling messages had been delivered during 818,000 pokies sessions. She said more than 1730 users had set personalised messages to be displayed to them when they approach their playing limit.