Don't be hasty on gambling smart cards: Industry

Independent Gambling Authority of South Australia expresses concerns around pace of smartcard technology implementation

The Independent Gambling Authority (IGA) of South Australia has thrown its support behind use of smartcards to limit problem gambling, but warned politicians last week the technology could have adverse effects on the industry.

IGA presiding member, Alan Moss told a recent joint select committee on gambling reform - chaired by crossbench MP Andrew Wilkie - that while the organisation’s support for the introduction of smartcard technology had not waned, there was concern around the technology being introduced too rapidly.

“Our concern is not that there are problems in regulation per se, our concerns arise more from unintended consequences to the industry if the implementation of this type of smartcard technology is too rapid,” Moss said. “We think that it is possible that, if the implementation is too rapid and it is too onerous to get the card, there will be a significant percentage of people who simply stop playing because it is too difficult.”

According to Moss, the implementation of the smartcard technologies should follow in the footsteps of the anti-smoking legislation which was introduced over a five-year period.

“Although there was initially a significant drop in net gaming revenue from poker machines when that legislation was first introduced, over time the hotels have pretty much returned to pre-smoking legislation revenue in relation to their gaming venues.”

In September last year, the Prime Minister Julia Gillard made a commitment to the overhaul of poker machines with "pre-commitment technology" being applied to the gambling devices by 2014. The technology would require gamblers to log into poker machines via smartcards that will identify them to a network which systematically tracks their play over time. Players would be able to set limits on their play, and exclude themselves from playing at any time.

At the time, Wilkie said the login technology would ensure individual settings for the whole system could be easily changed to suit each gambler and drive an overall improvement in their lives.

Currently, Moss says South Australia has 900 people actively participating in the barring scheme where people can go to the authority and request to be barred from certain venues, however he notes, this figure is just “the tip of the iceberg”. Despite this, Moss maintained the concept of introducing a “maximum bet limit” or “dollar bet limit” would not be beneficial to the industry.

Contemplation of other identified technologies, such as biometrics, were also raised at hearings held across the country last week. In a Victorian hearing, Regis Controls technical director, Ian Donald, warned biometrics would be a poor solution, as failure rates could be as high as 20 to 30 per cent.

"On one in four occasions that a player wants to log on to a machine, they cannot using a biometric," Donald said. "What happens in that situation?”

According to Donald, these failures occur for a number of reasons, including the notion that approximately 12 per cent of the population do not have an identifiable fingerprint, due to old age or manual work.

Biometrics would minimise but fail to eliminate card sharing, as some could still use another player's thumbprint. Donald also pointed to the expense involved in implementing and maintaining up to 197,000 biometric readers at poker machines across Australia.

“It is totally uneconomic and clubs would close in that situation.”

The committee is yet to release a final report on its findings.

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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