Trial finds cashless gaming makes little difference to gambling behaviour on pokies

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Gambling reform advocates have criticised the findings from the first cashless gaming trial in New South Wales. 

The trial ran at food and entertainment venue Wests New Lambton, a suburb of Newcastle in the state’s Hunter region, from October 2022 until June last year.

It saw technology installed on 144 machines allowing players to transfer money directly from a digital wallet on their smartphones — which connected to an external bank account — onto the gaming machine. 

The technology included voluntary responsible gambling features such as limit setting. 

The final report was based on post-trial interviews, and prepared by Professor Paul Delfabbro from the University of Adelaide on behalf of Liquor and Gaming NSW (L&GNSW).

It found the new technology had minimal impact on player behaviour. 

“The most common response was that there was little impact on how much time or money [was] being spent, or how fast people gambled,” the report stated.

The report found players often moved between machines and venues.(ABC News: Danielle Bonica)

There was evidence to suggest more people reduced the amount they spent on gambling each day compared to those who reported an increase, but the venue did not report any evidence of revenue changes. 

The CEO of the Alliance for Gambling Reform, Carol Bennett, said the trial was not a “serious attempt” at reducing gambling harm. 

“We need to see the introduction of the recommendation from the NSW Crime Commission for a mandatory cashless card that includes binding and default limits,” she said. 

Ms Bennett said the trial should include harm reduction features such as play limits that require breaks and maximum play periods, not allowing credit to be used when loading funds on a card, and not linking play to loyalty schemes. 

The report found the technology used generally worked well after some initial issues, particularly when it came to signing people up. 

Participants also tended to revert back to the gaming system they were used to, rather than use the new technology on offer. 

It found players were reluctant to relinquish the gambling methods to which they were accustomed, and had their favourite machines in particular venues, but often moved between machines and venues. 

Woman in garden looks to side of camera

Carol Bennett wants to see a mandatory cashless gaming card rolled out that has binding and default limits.(ABC News: Tamara Penniket)

Study ‘confused’: advocate

In a statement, L&GNSW said the Wests trial in Newcastle was designed to assess how cashless gaming solutions operated in real-world conditions and how people used harm minimisation tools. 

It was one of two already overseen by Liquor and Gaming New South Wales — the other was at Sydney’s Club York. 

Less than one third of the 260 participants originally included in the trial filled out the post-trial survey. 

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