The 85 per cent return figure is calculated over the lifetime of a machine. Photo: Erin JonassonAustralia’s voracious gaming machines are facing a landmark legal test, with a former pokie addict set to challenge the industry’s assurance that players are returned a minimum 85 per cent of their stake.
In the Federal Court on Wednesday, Adelaide-based lead applicant Shonica Guy will seek a declaration against industry giants Crown casino and pokie manufacturer Aristocrat that the machines she played for 14 years were misleading and deceptive.
In September, Fairfax Media revealed details of Ms Guy’s claim that the popular Dolphin Treasure machine was designed to mislead players. This included an uneven spread of symbols needed to win across the game’s five “reels” and the disguising of losses as wins through images and sound.
But in an updated claim, Ms Guy will also argue that information to players provided on machines is deceptive, notably the assurance that players will get a “theoretical” return of 85 per cent (the figure varies by state and by machine).
The 85 per cent return figure is calculated over the lifetime of a machine and includes jackpots that occasional players rarely win.
Prominent Melbourne-based law firm Maurice Blackburn is representing Ms Guy. Principal Jacob Varghese slammed the 85 per cent advice to players as a “myth” based on the average return from a single spin.
Ms Guy’s team will claim that, contrary to federal consumer law, players are tricked into believing that if they enter a pokies venue with $100 they will leave hours later with $85.
But because 15 per cent on average is lost each game, the return cumulatively diminishes, with average players losing $5 every minute and $10 in five minutes.
“So if you put money into the machine and have multiple spins, you likely will be left with nothing,” said Mr Varghese. He said that to be confident of an 85 per cent return a player would have to have unlimited funds and use a machine for its lifetime.
Mr Varghese said the case was the first to focus on the effects of poker machine design on the prospects of winning. If successful it would have ramifications for the design of all pokie machines across the industry.
The case centres on the Dolphin Treasure machine and the claim the machine is designed – including in its reels and symbols – to make winning far more difficult than it appears to players,
Ms Guy said the machines took over her life for 14 years. “I do not want that to happen to another family.
“People deserve to know what is going on with the design of these machines, which deliberately give people false hope that they have a chance of winning to keep them playing. It is wrong, and it has to stop,” she said.
The legal action is being supported by the Alliance for Gambling Reform and backed up with analysis by researchers at Monash University.
Australians lose more than $11 billion on pokies each year. Some $2.5 billion is lost in Victoria alone, with $1 billion flowing to state coffers through taxes. Crown has a licence to operate 2628 poker machines.
Pokies manufacturer Aristocrat did not comment on Tuesday but has previously said it would “vigorously” defend any legal action.
It has said it “emphatically rejects” that its games are designed to encourage problem gambling or do not comply “with all relevant regulations and laws”.
In a brief written statement a spokeswoman for Crown in Melbourne said it would also defend any claim.
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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.