Discussion paper
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Electronic gambling machines (EGMs), or poker machines, are a high-intensity form of gambling and the most harmful form of gambling available in Australia. While less than a third of the Australian adult population (30%) use EGMs annually, and 5% use them weekly, around 30% of weekly users experience significant gambling harm.

Well-designed electronic pre-commitment systems can prevent and reduce harm from EGM use. Forms of pre-commitment have been introduced in jurisdictions around Australia and internationally. The most effective systems require all gamblers to set a binding limit on the amount of money they are prepared to lose. To be most effective, the system needs to be universal and available across jurisdictions, and with limits that are binding.

Key messages

  • EGM users often underestimate their gambling expenditure by substantial amounts. Pre-commitment can provide a way for gamblers to set and track monetary and time limits to prevent unintended, excessive use. Pre-commitment systems can also facilitate the provision of an account summary for EGM users.
  • The extent to which registered EGM use is required across a large area (e.g., an entire jurisdiction) and whether maximum loss limits and time limits are binding and irrevocable are critical aspects of the success of a pre-commitment system capable of preventing and reducing harm.
  • A partial or incomplete system that does not require all gamblers to use the system may be ineffective in supporting gamblers to stick to pre-determined limits.
  • Experiences internationally and in Australia have demonstrated that the uptake of limit setting in partial pre-commitment systems is low.
  • Incorporating pre-commitment into an electronic loyalty program may provide users with conflicting messages about spending.
  • Pre-commitment consumer interfaces should be intuitive and simple to navigate to encourage engagement with all the features of the system, and privacy and confidentiality of user data is paramount.
  • Binding, universal systems will provide the best protection from harm; however, this design is not yet available in Australia.
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