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Pokies machines in Australia remain a source of controversy

A scheme to encourage players in Australia to commit to a limit of spending on pokies (slot machines) was cast into doubt after the gambler used to endorse the scheme said she didn’t expect it to work.

Billi Barnes, a member of the Hampton Bowls Club in Victoria, who was hand-picked to represent the pre-commitment scheme, thinks it is a ‘fantastic’ idea, but unlikely to work for more serious gamblers. Ms Barnes only enjoys an occasional flutter on the pokies, but she says she has friends that can spend up to AU$1400 in a single session.

“You hear about people winning but you don’t know how much they put in,” she said.

The government has announced a new pre-commitment scheme, which encourages gamblers to put a voluntary limit on how much they bet in a fixed time period. The scheme will allow players to track all their pokies play wherever they are. However, users can exceed the limits they set if they choose to, which opponents argue is the reason the scheme is floored.

Pokies have become a political issue in Australia in recent years as the country has one of the highest levels of problem gamblers of any nation. Pokies are prevalent in large parts of Australia and can be found in casinos, clubs, bars and gaming centers. Campaigners are looking for enforced limits on how much players are spending to curb the increase in problem gambling.