Australian Gambling Researcher Lobbies for Mandatory Preset Loss Limits

If Australia is serious about responsible gambling, Charles Livingstone knows an easy solution. The long-time gambling researcher suggests all slot machines come with mandatory loss limits.

Charles Livingstone
Charles Livingstone
Charles Livingstone, a gambling researcher and professor at Australia’s Monash University, in a school photo. Livingstone is lobbying for governments to implement loss limits on slot machines in the country. (Image: Monash University)

Australians love slot machines. They can be found in casinos, bars, restaurants, and at other gathering places throughout the country. Previous studies have asserted that 18% of the world’s slots are in the country, even though it only represents 0.3% of the global population.

This is bad news for consumers, according to gambling opponents, especially given the amount of money they spend on the pastime. So, to curb losses, Livingstone wants governments to force players to establish loss limits before they sit down at a machine.

Know When to Say When

Australia’s ABC News reports that there are over 40K slots in Queensland alone. New South Wales reportedly has around 95K and Victoria has another 28,800.

Livingstone asserts that requiring preset loss limits at the slots in bars and restaurants will go a long way toward protecting consumers and reducing gambling harm. The associate professor at Monash University’s School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine is trying to convince Queensland to raise the bar and institute a mandatory loss-limit requirement.

For the program to work, gamblers would have to establish how much they would be willing to lose each time they played a machine. Livingstone asserts that this would be easy to implement and would be a conclusive way to reduce gambling harm.

He added that Queensland already has a master monitoring system for its slots. As such, it would be easy to introduce the requirement. This would also allow the state to learn, in real-time, how much gamblers and spending and losing.

Preset loss limits are already becoming a reality in Queensland, according to the Office of Liquor and Gaming (OLGR). The initiative is currently just a voluntary program at certain gaming properties. Eventually, though, it could become part of the state’s gambling reforms.

Not Enough Focus on Gambling Harm

Livingstone doesn’t believe the government is doing enough to address potential gambling harm. He emphasizes that there are efforts to introduce more stringent controls in online gambling, but not for the land-based alternative.

He accuses regulators across Australia of having “largely failed” when it comes to targeting responsible gambling in relation to slots. Livingstone adds that “almost every survey globally” indicates that slot machines represent the most harmful form of gambling.

However, there is often a disconnect between the definition of gambling harm and gambling loss. Stanton Peele, a US psychologist and author, once wrote, “It’s not correct to say that most gamblers are addicted. It is fair to say that many gamblers lose more than they can afford.”

Despite being home to the majority of the world’s slot machines, gambling addiction in Australia is extremely low. Most studies say it affects only around 1% of the population.

The figure is about the same in the US, where slot machines, on average, account for around 70% of a casino’s revenue. Moreover, Aussies can plunk down money on a slot virtually anywhere, while US gamblers have more limited access. Therefore, the problem gambling issue in Australia may not be as drastic as some believe.

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