Today’s Sydney Morning Herald carries a story about Clubs Australia’s response to Andrew Wilkie’s commitment to introducing a $1 “per-push” cap on poker machines. Their executive director, Anthony Ball, airs his views on the matter… and I couldn’t have hoped for a more predictable response.
Ball believes that Wilkie has exaggerated the amount of money that gamblers can lose in an hour on the pokies. Let’s recap; after meeting recently with Senator Nick Xenophon, Wilkie is reported as saying that some states allowed for losses of up to $15,000 an hour on one machine.
So is he exaggerating? Not really. The recent Productivity Commission report goes in to some detail on betting limits, spin rates and the intensity of play. They’ve made some assumptions, such as a 90% return to players, and in states without regulated spin rates (which includes NSW), they’ve assumed a maximum of 20 spins per minute, at 3 seconds per spin.
However, one of the things about pokies is that they’re random. You can never guarantee any kind of payout percentage, certainly not one as high as 90%, for any given gaming session. Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m a reformed problem gambler, and I can tell you that it was not unusual for me to go 40, 50, even 60 spins without a single win.
So… 20 spins per minute, at $10 a pop (also the limit in NSW), on a machine that’s not paying out… that’s potentially $12,000 gone in an hour.
Not quite $15,000, although it’s pretty close. But take a closer look at the spin rates, which are assumed to be 20 per minute. In Victoria, the spin rate is regulated at 2.14 seconds, or 28 spins per minute. If NSW (for example) had a spin rate similar to Victoria’s, then the potential losses in an hour on a non-paying machine jump to $16,800. Factor in some small wins, and $15,000 looks more and more possible.
So, a little gentle research shows that Wilkie’s statement is, in fact, correct… which makes Ball’s comments all the more ludicrous. Ball has been quoted as saying: “Andrew Wilkie needs to stop speaking and start reading because he clearly hasn’t bothered to read the most exhaustive report on problem gambling in Australian history…”
Anthony Ball, you need to follow your own advice. You are an apologist for an industry that bleeds billions of dollars from the Australian community and gives back only a fraction of that amount. You and your organisation automatically oppose any mooted reform of the poker machine industry, on the flimsiest of grounds, and call yourselves benefactors of society.
Stop speaking, Anthony Ball. Start reading.
Close your mouth and open your eyes.