The use of electronic gambling machines (EGMs) in Australia and New Zealand constitutes the largest sector of the gambling industry. The costs arising from the harms of gambling detract significantly from its benefits, and in all Australian jurisdictions various policy measures have been implemented to reduce these harms. If successful, these would maximise the net benefits associated with EGM gambling. This article reviews the available evidence for a range of these practices, particularly those implemented within EGM venues via ‘codes of practice’. These codes of practice are intended to give effect to the principles of ‘responsible gambling’ within EGM venues. These measures are: self-exclusion, signage, messages, interaction with gamblers, the removal of ATMs from gambling venues, and ‘responsible gambling’ assessed overall in a venue context. In addition, we review the evidence in support of two major recommendations of the Productivity Commission’s 2010 report into gambling, pre-commitment and one-dollar maximum wagers. We conclude that there is a modest level of evidence supporting some measures, notably self-exclusion and, to a greater extent, the removal of ATMs. There is also some evidence that ‘responsible gambling’ measures have, collectively, reduced the harms associated with gambling. However, there is limited evidence available to confirm the effectiveness of most individual ‘responsible gambling’ measures actually implemented in venues. Further, policy measures implemented outside the control of venues (such as ATM removal, reduction in bet limits, and the prohibition of smoking) appear to be associated with more significant effects, based on analysis of EGM revenue data in Victoria.
The evidence for prospective measures is necessarily limited since the ultimate test is post-implementation efficacy, but there is growing evidence to suggest that pre-commitment, one-dollar maximum bets or other machine design changes may yield significantly more effective harm minimisation effects than in-venue practices such as signage or, indeed, self-exclusion. In considering evidence about the effects of existing or prospective measures it is important to emphasise that packages of measures might be more effective than single ones, and that an inability to confirm a statistically significant effect does not mean that no effect exists.