Victoria’s YourPlay program a failure

by Noah Taylor Last Updated
Victoria’s YourPlay program a failure

A Victorian government scheme that used voluntary loss limits in a bid to minimise poker machine harm has been deemed a failure, with negligible uptake from punters and some venues actively discouraging patrons from using the program.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a review of the YourPlay program by University of Adelaide researchers, which was released late on Friday, found that only 0.01 per cent of the money fed into Victorian poker machines in 2018 was done while using the voluntary pre-commitment cards.

Victorians lost $2.7 billion on poker machines last year.

YourPlay was introduced in 2015 at a cost of $197 million, mostly paid for by the gambling industry, but was heavily criticised at the time because of its voluntary nature and the fact punters could choose to keep gambling even after reaching their pre-set limit.

The government-commissioned review found YourPlay delivered reasonable harm-reduction benefits to people using the scheme, including making it easier for them to stick to loss limits.

However, the program’s uptake was “very low”, failing to even reach the low expectations of convincing 1 to 5 per cent of gamblers to sign up.

A small number of venues achieved an “almost acceptable” rate of up to 0.5 to 1 per cent of turnover happening on YourPlay cards, but the overwhelming majority of pubs and clubs had “either no YourPlay use or almost no YourPlay.”

The attitude of venues to the program was a major cause of the failure, the report noted.

Out of 157 attempts by researchers to join the scheme in Victorian pubs and clubs, only 24 were successful.

Researchers encountered negative comments from staff about the scheme in a third of sign-up attempts and on 10 occasions were actively discouraged from joining.

Victorian Gaming Minister Marlene Kairouz said the government knew there was “more work to do to ensure the YourPlay program meets its full potential” and said it would work with the state’s gambling regulator to achieve that.

As well as accepting all 23 of the report’s recommendations, Ms Kairouz on Friday said she had strengthened the state’s gaming venue code of conduct.

The revised code will require venues to interact with punters who have gambled without a break and to reinforce “fallacies or misconceptions” to patrons about poker machines.

The report also found that gamblers using YourPlay cards at Melbourne’s Crown casino could unwittingly expose themselves to an increased risk of harm because it automatically switches poker machines onto “unrestricted mode”, which disables the harm minimisation measures including spin rate limits and maximum bet limits.

The YourPlay report’s recommendations included issuing fines to venues that do not comply with the pre-commitment scheme.

It said financial penalties should be considered for venues with low YourPlay usage rates.

Some venues were found to be in clear breach of the laws, adopting practices such as forcing gamblers to also join their own loyalty scheme or demanding an excessive amount of identification to join YourPlay.

TITO system close in Victoria

The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation announced the transition of pokies to a system that accepts and remits tickets.

Casino Aus reported in January that venues with gaming machines must now ensure their new systems are compliant with regulatory requirements and expectations.

The new ticket-in ticket-out (TITO) system is designed to rid the need for coins.

The Commission gave notice in December 2019 that the TITO functionality on gaming machines will be available soon.

The system will reduce the need for cash – specifically coins – with the use of barcoded tickets.

Players will be able to see a cashier or cash machine to redeem a ticket is simply take it from one machine to another to seamlessly continue play.

TITO systems have already been tested to make sure they connect with the Intralot Central Monitoring and Control System and be compliant with all Victorian technical standards.

Intralot will monitor TITO transactions just as it does with all other gaming machine transactions.

It is important to note that venues are not required to use TITO.

They may use TITO with all, none or some of their pokies.

The introduction is merely the process by which the venue operators can keep up with the latest technology and keep their machines current and player friendly.

Operators obliged to reset machines

Venue operators with gaming machines must find and coordinate with a third-party service to obtain TITO equipment.

There are no licensed services, however, that are already in complete compliance with VCGLR, so operators are tasked with vetting the companies.

They must work with the third part to ensure that all TITO systems are compliant.

In addition, venue operators must retain all documentation from those service providers.

All of the responsibility during this process is on the venue operator.

It is also important that the gaming machines are capable of using TITO technology.

Newer machines should have the technology to switch to TITO, but older ones may require modifications.

In the case of the latter, manufacturers and suppliers must all approve of the TITO conversion process.

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