Based on claims that video poker machines, or pokies, are designed to be addictive and deceive users, legal action against the operators and designers of pokies in Australia is being prepared by the Maurice Blackburn firm, which said it was exploring whether the machines breached consumer laws.

A lawyer from the firm, Jacob Varghese said, “We think there’s a genuine argument that some of the behavior by the pokie designers is misleading and deceptive in that it makes people think things are happening that are not actually happening,” Varghese added, “One of those things is losses described as wins, in which the machine will act as if you’ve won but really you’ve net-lost. You might have won 30 cents on the dollar you played. You’ve still lost 70 cents but you still get all the stimulus and reaction from the machine as if you’ve won,” according to CalvinAyre. Varghese said the effect is not dissimilar to that of drugs. A similar conclusion was reached by Dr. Charles Livingstone of Monash University who said that research involving poker machines showed that they were designed to stimulate dopamine release, which has been observed in cocaine addiction.

Over the next couple of months common law negligence and Australian Consumer Law, among others, would be included in a range of legal actions that will be prepared, according to Varghese who is working with the Alliance for Gambling Reform. Ross Ferrar, the chief executive of Gaming Technologies Australia said that the design and manufacture of poker machines is heavily regulated and thinking that machines that didn’t adhere to regulations would be approved is “nonsense.”

The Australian government takes in more than $1b annually in taxes from poker machines alone, and Australians lose in excess of $12b every year on them with Victoria accounting for $2.5b alone. Meanwhile, prompted by a Financial Counselling Australia report published in August, in South Australia regulatory changes have been proposed by the state’s Independent Gambling Authority (IGA) to the South Australian Gambling Code of Practice. The report stated that questionable practices were being engaged in by online betting agencies including offering large amounts of credit to account holders without giving consideration to their capacity to repay the debt or to their well-being.

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