It’s December 1. Apart from being the first day of summer, that also means it’s the first day of Yourplay, the Victorian government’s much-hyped pre-commitment system for poker machines.
(When I say “much-hyped”, I mean anything but. Besides the occasional press release there really hasn’t been much publicity about this at all)
As of today, every poker machine in Victoria must be able to accept a Yourplay card. Every venue in the state must offer the scheme as an option for their patrons. It sounds great.
The problems with Yourplay are well documented and fundamental; the main flaw is that it’s a voluntary scheme.
• You don’t need a card to gamble.
• If you do get a card, you don’t need to use it.
• If you do use it, you don’t need to set limits.
• If you do set limits, you don’t need to stick to them.
• If you reach your limit, you can withdraw your card and keep gambling.
Put simply, Yourplay will not work. It will not help the people who need it most, and that’s people who need to impose limits that they can’t get around.
But there are a lot of other problems with Yourplay as well. I know, because today on my lunchbreak, I popped in to a poker machine venue near my work and signed up.
This was painful. There was a kiosk at the front of the venue, well away from the gambling room. The interface was clunky and the instructions unclear. One screen wouldn’t allow me to enter any details at all, with no explanation. I had to enter a lot of information (name, address, etc)… the kind of details poker machine addicts would be loath to part with. All up, it took me close to ten minutes to register, at which point I was told to see venue staff to get my card.
Getting a card
This was also painful. It took two staff members, both of whom had been trained (I asked them), another ten minutes just to find me in the system and then attach a card to my account. This included a trip back to the registration kiosk to confirm that my registration had actually worked.
While all this was going on, a steady stream of people were waiting to cash in coins or take out money. My one request for a card significantly disrupted service for about a quarter of an hour.
I mentioned that we went back to the registration kiosk; when we did, I was able to log in but every screen I came to displayed a pop-up error window calling for scripts to be disabled. Not the kind of experience you want, especially at the conclusion of a technical trial designed to iron out issues like this.
Having registered, I needed a card. But in order to collect my card, I needed to provide ID. For me, this was my driver’s licence. Again, this kind of checking is something that people with problematic gambling behaviours will be keen to avoid.
But after close to half an hour, I ended up with a card. Finally! But no, this isn’t over yet.
The card I got was venue-branded, but was just a Yourplay card. I could use it in any poker machine, any venue. But if I’d had loyalty cards for different venues and wanted to keep using them, I’d need to attach my Yourplay account to each one.
That’s the way Yourplay has been designed; there’s no such thing as a Yourplay card. Instead, you create an account, and then link your account to a venue card. That card may be a loyalty card, or may be used just for Yourplay.
So if you gamble at more than one venue, you may need more than one card. In fact, you may need a card for every venue you gamble at.
And you’ll need to go through the identification and connection process each time.
There’s much more that can be said about Yourplay, none of it good. The fact that it can be linked to venue loyalty cards is highly problematic. The design of the posters and brochures looks more like an encouragement to gamble than an advertisement for restraint. And the ability for gamblers to use casual, anonymous cards makes a mockery of the whole system.
Yourplay is a cumbersome, poorly designed and awkward solution to a very serious problem. It has serious flaws that mean it can never be truly effective. But worst of all, it’s annoying. Gamblers who want to use the system need to register multiple times and keep track of multiple cards. They need to use buggy computer kiosks and deal with staff who aren’t completely sure of what they’re doing. Ultimately, they just won’t bother.
Yourplay has been designed to fail from day one. And it will.