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Pokies are one of the most popular games in casinos, but playing them is considered the most harmful gambling practice. In fact, two in ten pokie players are addicts. In a bid to curb the harm of playing these games for real money, the New Zealand government aims to review its pokie regulations and make necessary changes. Here is a summary of how the government intends to enforce changes and how they’ll affect gambling.

Current Legal Situation to Minimise Harm

Gambling is a favorite pastime for several punters, but it’s no news that it could quickly spiral out of control. The after effects of gambling addiction can be severe, and some punters might attempt self-harm. In fact, about 4.5% of New Zealanders in 2018 reported trying to harm themselves because of their gambling habits.

As popular as they are, Pokies are considered the most harmful land-based source of gambling problems. It is estimated that most people affected by the harm of getting addicted to playing these games can barely afford them. That’s because these machines are often situated in areas with higher deprivation levels.

According to research, about seven other persons are indirectly affected by severe gambling problems. It doesn’t just affect the immediate family of the individual but also friends and the community as a whole. Gambling addiction is known to cause distance and neglect, which in turn could lead to strained relationships and emotional instability.

Addicts are also less productive, as they tend to be constantly distracted. This could lead to job loss, forcing the player to seek other means to raise funds for playing games. Consequently, the punter might resort to fraud, theft, and other illegal dealings.

Reduce Harm in Venues

Pubs and clubs have stricter policies when it comes to alcohol than gambling. Supervision of the activities within the location is sometimes left to staff members who are not trained to handle players with severe gambling addiction. Since these individuals lack expertise, they’re unaware of the best course of action when faced with a customer displaying harmful gaming signs.

The casual nature as to which the activity is regulated within pubs and clubs proves that there’s a need to improve gambling policies. In order to avoid any situation going out of hand, staff must be adequately trained to identify players with a gambling problem and what measures to take. The training specifics and the quality of the training are left for society to decide.

Aside from this training, exclusion from gambling is considered another viable option to help curb harmful gambling. There are also other suggestions that the government believes would help prevent the habit. We have listed some of these options below.

  • No access to ATM points within the gambling venue
  • Gamblers are to commit the amount of cash they intend to spend for each betting session
  • Venues to monitor the gambling arena at different intervals

Changes to game features

While searching for ways to curb harmful gambling, the game features were also considered. These features are related to every aspect of the machine, including how they look, sound, and function. Some of these, like bonus games and free spins, could influence how much time a player invests in the game. Since features are essential to gameplay, the government is thinking of ways to alter these features to make the games safer.

Currently, these machines have a few distinct elements that were meant to make each gaming session safer. These games display the following information:

  • The average wins players can get over a particular period (This is also called the Return to Player percentage)
  • Winning odds of the game
  • Minimum and maximum bet amount

They also displays the time the punter has spent playing and their wins and losses. The player is then asked if they wish to continue playing or quit, and depending on their answer, the machine pays out or returns to the game.

Another feature that might be adjusted is the jackpots. Several players are fixated on the game and keep betting with hopes of bagging this large prize. In fact, the promise of a jackpot is enough to make a player keep returning to that machine.

After assessments, the government aims to make gambling sessions less alluring by reducing jackpots and bet sizes. They’re also considering restricting the number of games that can be played in an hour and reducing the maximum stake amount.

Penalties and Enforcement

At the moment, there are a few penalties for breach of harm minimization, including:

  • A $500 fine for an underage gambler. The society and the venue’s manager are also to pay a fine of $5,000 and $1,000, respectively.
  • There’s a $5,000 fine for the venue manager if there’s no display that notifies customers that problem gamblers must be identified. An alternative fee is a $2500 infringement charge.
  • If the venue manager fails to follow the policy of identifying addicted gamblers, they pay a $5,000 fee.
  • The venue manager also pays a $5,000 fee for failure to issue an exclusion when requested.
  • For breach of exclusion, the gambler pays $500, and the venue manager pays $5,000.

However, as you can quickly tell, these laws are not directly channeled to combat harmful gambling. As a result, the government is looking to create chargeable offenses that can attract hefty fines once committed. The aim is to ensure that venue owners take more rigorous approaches to ensure that their players gamble responsibly.

What is Happening Next

Responsible gambling is one thing that the New Zealand government aims to promote. However, this isn’t proving to be an easy task, considering the widespread nature of land-based pokie machines. Since these games are the favorites of several punters, it’ll be challenging to minimize their appeal.

While the government could easily make decisions and enforce laws, it has roped the population in. To this effect, it has released the regulations and steps it thinks to put in place. Now, what matters is your feedback and what you think of the suggested changes.

You can keep tabs on these developments to note what changes will be made. Note that if these regulations are to be set, it will affect the venue managers and society as much as it would affect the gambler.