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'Pokie' Safety Limits and Pre-Commitment Technology

Monday, 7 March 2011  | Interchurch Gambling Taskforce

I’d love it if there was just so much that you could put into the machine and not have to keep feeding it. Some of them just gobble up your money and you keep putting it in the hope of a return and there are people around you and the money is tinkling in. But [there is] no sort of limit on how much money you can put in the machine, a limit on the time you can spend on the machine because some people are there for hours, and I just think, mesmerised…. When I think what I’ve spent on the pokies I could have had a trip around the world, almost.

A pokie gambler interviewed for the Gambling Research Australia report Analysis of Gambler Pre-commitment Behaviour, June 2006


Being able to set time and money limits with regards to gambling on pokies is seen as one strategy that can help curb problem gambling behaviour. This is known as pre-commitment as the gambler sets the limits before they start gambling.


Research shows that many gamblers, particularly people with gambling problems, do not set themselves affordable limits. The report commissioned by Gambling Research Australia on Analysis of Gambler Pre-Commitment Behaviour found that:

  • Up to half (51%) of regular Australian gamblers admitted to not always calculating the affordability of their gambling.[1]
  • At least one in five regular gamblers tend to “never” calculate the affordability of their gambling.
  • Around a third of pokie gamblers said they “never” set any limit on their gambling.
  • Only 8% of regular pokie players set an additional upper monthly limit.
  • 57% of pokie gamblers had trouble staying within their limits and pokie gamblers were more likely than other gamblers to exceed their maximum spend limit and bet size limit.

As part of an agreement between independent Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie and the Federal Labor Government, the Federal Government has agreed to implement a uniform pre-commitment scheme across all pokies in Australia. This will allow gamblers to set time and loss limits on pokies. The scheme is to start to be implemented by 2012 with the full scheme commencing by 2014, through Federal Government legislation if the State and Territory Governments do not agree to implement it.


A less robust system of setting limits already exists in Canada and it has been shown to allow gamblers greater control over their losses, offering some assistance in reducing problem gambling behaviour. Gamblers reported spending less time if they used the pre-commitment features and stated that the features encouraged responsible gambling and helped them set a budget and stick to it.


Clubs Australia is now actively seeking to get the Government to back-flip on its announcement. It opposes the introduction of a system on pokies that allows gamblers to set loss limits and stick to them. It argues such a system will cost their clubs money and jobs. Clubs Australia is threatening to run a $10 million advertising campaign this year against the introduction of pre-commitment on pokies to try and force the Federal Government to abandon its plan to introduce this consumer protection measure for gamblers.


The new Victorian Government has indicated they support a more limited form of pre-commitment than that proposed by the Federal Government. Under the Victorian Government plan it will not be possible for a gambler to set a limit and have it enforced, as gamblers will not need to have a pre-commitment device to use the pokies. Instead they will simply get a warning they have reached the limit they have set themselves, but will be free to keep gambling. The Victorian Government has promised to:

  • Implement a system where gamblers can set limits on time and money with a warning when the limit is reached across all pokie venues by 2013, or sooner if possible;
  • Work with pokie venues and other interested groups on developing protocols to encourage the take-up of pre-commitment and reduce any potential social stigma; and
  • Revise the content of the Responsible Gambling Codes of Conduct to require pokie venues to support and promote the use of pre-commitment technology.


What you can do:

Please send polite and respectful letters or e-mails to:

The Hon Michael O’Brien

Minister for Gaming

Suite 1,313 Waverley Rd

Malvern East, Victoria, 3145

E-mail: Michael.o’brien@parliament.vic.gov.au

Salutation: Dear Minister


The Hon Ted Baillieu


Parliament House

Spring Street

Melbourne, VIC, 3002

E-mail: ted.baillieu@parliament.vic.gov.au

Salutation: Dear Premier


Your local state MP which can be found at the Victorian Electoral Commission website: http://www.vec.vic.gov.au/districts.html


Points to make in your letter:

  • Welcome the Victorian Government’s commitment to introduce pre-commitment on all pokies by no later than 2013.
  • However, express deep concern under that the Victorian Government proposal gamblers will not be able set limits they can choose to have enforced. They will be able to keep gambling once they reach the limit they have set even if they do not want to have this option.
  • Ask the Victorian Government to make its pre-commitment system effective by:
    • being easy for gamblers to use;
    • linking all machines together, so that it will not be possible to override a limit the gambler has set simply by moving to another machine;
    • allow for at least 24 hours before a limit can be increased upwards; and
    • allow gamblers to set enforcement loss and time limits for themselves.
  • Point out it is essential for the system to ensure that decisions made by a gambler before they start gambling to set limits on their gambling cannot be overridden or circumvented by later decisions in the heat of a session if this is what the gambler wants.


Also send letters to e-mails to:

The Hon. Jenny Macklin MP

Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs

Parliament House

Canberra, ACT, 2600

Salutation: Dear Minister


On-line comments can be made to Minister Macklin at:


The Hon. Julia Gillard MP

Prime Minister

Parliament House

Canberra, ACT, 2600

Salutation: Dear Prime Minister


To e-mail the Prime Minister go to



Points to make in your letters or e-mails:

  • Express deep concern the number of people with gambling problems across Australia is estimated to be around 150,000. Point out the impacts of problem gambling include suicide, relationship breakdown, bankruptcy, lowered productivity, job losses, depression and crime.
  • Welcome the promises the Federal Government has made to tackle problem gambling, especially through introducing an effective system that will allow gamblers to set limits on the amount they can lose.
  • Urge them not to give in to lobbying by parts of the gambling industry who want to water down these reforms. 

[1] McDonnell Phillips Pty Ltd, “Analysis of Gambler Pre-Commitment Behaviour”, Gambling Research Australia, June 2006.


March 14, 2011, 9:06AM
Good article Brent, hope it stirs up a good response and helps the Brendan Fevola's and other problem gamblers of this world

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