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Poker machine makers call for national standa -

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ELEANOR HALL: They've been blamed for all manner of social ills but the manufacturers of poker
machines say they're being unfairly stigmatised and that the industry is in fact working to
minimise problem gambling.

And they say they could do this more effectively and responsibly if state and federal governments
were to streamline the rules surrounding the machines.

Anti-gambling counsellors, though, remain unconvinced, as Timothy McDonald reports.

(Sound of poker machine)

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: The last time the Productivity Commission did a count, it found Australia has as
many as a fifth of the world's poker machines, depending on which ones you count.

The head of the Gaming Technologies Association Ross Ferrar says a more complete reading of those
numbers paints a very different picture.

ROSS FERRAR: That's nonsense. It has always been nonsense and as far as we're concerned it always
will be. Currently Australia has something in the order of two per cent of the world's gaming
machines. Now that's been independently researched every two years since 1999 and it's come up with
roughly the same amount.

That kind of statistic can generate an emotional response, when you say 20 per cent. When you say
there's 10 times as many machines in Australia as there actually are it leads people to think
things that they shouldn't be thinking.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: It's 10 years since the Productivity Commission came out with their findings and
in that time manufacturers say they've been unfairly demonised.

The commission is currently taking a second look at gambling and manufacturers hope the community
and government response will be a bit different this time around.

But community groups and advocates are making their own submissions and say their sympathies lie
with problem gamblers rather than the industries that profit from them.

The Reverend Keith Garner is the CEO of Wesley Mission.

KEITH GARNER: We're packed to the gunnels with the number of people that we could see. We could see
as many as we have the money to deal with and we can't deal with any more.

Everybody that's involved in this industry knows that we're pressed to the very limit and the truth
is that studies in the past, and present studies, suggest that the people who gamble most are the
people who have the least.

I know we sometimes read in the newspapers about high profile people who lose a lot of money at the
tables but it's ordinary people with very little money that are losing the most.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: But Ross Ferrar says emotional responses aren't helpful.

He says state governments are now burdening manufacturers with all kinds of rules, which are often
untested and may do very little to help problem gamblers.

He says recently, Victoria announced plans to mandate a new "pre-commitment" feature on machines,
which would force gamblers to budget more carefully.

ROSS FERRAR: But it hasn't been specified what pre-commitment is, so not only don't we know what
pre-commitment is but we have no way of ascertaining how to design, develop, test and submit for
approval, machines which incorporate pre-commitment.

Now we guess that it's a form of budgeting. Our members are very, very happy to design, develop,
test, submit, games and gaming machines that include budgeting for players, in fact it sounds like
a good idea doesn't it? But has it been researched? Not to our knowledge. Is it likely to help? We
don't know. If it doesn't help is it going to be removed? I doubt it.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: The Gaming Technologies Association says there are too many jurisdictions with
different approaches to problem gambling.

Ross Ferrar says there's no national approach and that makes it more difficult for manufacturers to
create machines that reduce problem gambling.

ROSS FERRAR: One problem gambler is too many but, as in all gambling industries in Australia, they
are legislated and regulated by state and territory government and that's fine, we're completely
comfortable with that. We comply with everything that must be complied with and more but there are
different approaches and different interpretations of standards between states and territories and
that impedes using innovation to address the issues that need to be addressed.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: The Reverend Garner says his organisation doesn't have an opinion on whether or
not a national approach would be better.

But he says the focus needs to be on what he says is an increase in problem gambling.

KEITH GARNER: They face the same issue everybody else does across a country with states and
Commonwealth issues, but what is true is that whatever state you're in and whatever place you're
in, the issue of gambling is on the rise, and so there needs to be a greater scrutiny about what is
allowed and what isn't allowed and for people like ourselves to speak quite clearly for those who
are suffering.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the Reverend Keith Garner from the Wesley Mission ending that report from
Timothy McDonald.