Ministry of Health asks about gambling pop-ups - Tuesday 28th of July 2009

The efficacy of pop-up panels or "player information display systems" (Pids) to rein in problem players on electronic gaming machines is being investigated by health officials.

The automatic messages, which appear on screens at 30 minute intervals advising how long a gambling session has been in progress, have been compulsory since the start of this month.

They also ask how much has been won or lost and whether the gambler wishes to continue, and prompt players to take breaks.

Now, three weeks after the messages became mandatory, the Ministry of Health has called for research into their efficacy, and outlined on a government electronic tenders website the kind of research it wants.

The ministry previously tried to probe the pop-ups idea in March 2007 in an attempt to evaluate regulations requiring the gambling industry to install Pids in electronic games by the end of last month.

No suitable research proposal was put forward, and it tried again in November last year -- after discussions with the gaming industry. This time it tried to assess the viability of proposed methodologies to obtain baseline information before adoption of the technology, but only one proposal was received.

With the regulation now in place, officials are now trying again -- with up to $240,000 to spend -- and this time have boiled the issue down to focus just on the effect of pop-ups.

According to the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), spending on gaming or "pokie" machines has dropped to a seven-year low, with spending on gaming machines in 1501 pubs and clubs nationwide falling 5.3 percent to $889 million.

The numbers of licence holders dropped 7.5 percent to 384, venues dropped 3.3 percent to 1501 and numbers of gaming machines were down 1.9 percent to 19,479.

Health officials want to know how the pop-ups influence gamblers behaviour, including awareness of money and time spent gambling, and the frequency with which a gambler changes machines, cashes out, or changes behaviour in chasing losses.

They are also interested in gamblers concerns the pop-ups will lock them out of play when a jackpot is possible, and whether the pop-ups have different effects on problem gamblers.

If the MOH gets a viable proposal by September 9, it expects the preferred provider to be named in October, and for the report to be delivered by June 2013.

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