Pokie exploitation could face court
Law firm Maurice Blackburn says it may launch legal action against poker machines, arguing that they breach consumer law.
The lawyers are working with the newly-formed Alliance for Gambling Reform on legal strategies that would help crack down on pokies.
They have raised the possibility of a court case to contend that because the machines are designed to deceive users and encourage addictive behaviour, they fall fowl of consumer law.
Nothing has been lodged in any state or federal court, but lawyer Jacob Varghese says they are taking a serious look.
“Under consumer law it's illegal to do things which are misleading and deceptive,” he said.
“We think there's a genuine argument that some of the behaviour by the pokie designers is misleading and deceptive in that it makes people think things are happening that are not actually happening.
“One of those things is losses described as wins, in which the machine will act as if you've won but really you've net-lost. You might have won 30 cents on the dollar you played.
“You've still lost 70 cents but you still get all the stimulus and reaction from the machine as if you've won.
“The neuroscience shows that gives you a little bit of a hit, and that hit is not dissimilar to the hit you get when you take a drug.”
Mr Varghese said the machines were clearly designed to encourage addictive behaviour.
A number of cases have been brought against poker machine companies in the past, but these tend to fail because the individual making the claim was considered responsible for their addiction.
But new scientific research suggests complicity on the side of the machines, as they are designed to “entrap” players into addiction.
“The problem is the players, sit there in the chair, are unaware that this is what the machines are doing to them,” he said.
While the lawyers may not push for a complete ban on pokies, they say they would at least want the introduction of clear warnings, like those on cigarettes, on the machines.
“If they're going to be as dangerous as they are at extracting money out of people and encouraging addictive behaviour, they need to be much more upfront about what they're doing,” he said.