Personal audio technology designed to be used on gaming machines to isolate gamblers from the outside world has been banned by the Victorian Coalition Government, Minister for Gaming Michael O'Brien announced today.
Introducing an interim ban order prohibiting the use of earphones on gaming machines, Mr O'Brien said the use of personal audio technology was inconsistent with Victoria's commitment to foster responsible gambling in gaming venues.
"I have used powers to deal with products and practices that undermine the responsible gambling objectives of the Gambling Regulation Act 2003 to ban this technology, effective today," Mr O'Brien said.
The interim ban order will have effect for the next 12 months, with the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation directed to investigate and report to the Minister on whether the product or practice should subsequently be banned for up to 10 years.
"Such technology is clearly designed to immerse gamblers in gaming machine play, potentially reducing their awareness of their surroundings and the time they have spent playing a machine," Mr O'Brien said.
"While the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation has advised me that this technology does not currently operate on any machine in Victoria, banning its use is another step towards minimising the harm caused by problem gambling and encouraging responsible gambling behaviour."
Mr O'Brien said the use of earphones on gaming machines undermines responsible gambling objectives for a variety of reasons including:
- earphones may increase the immersion in gaming machine play by players;
- earphones may block out external noise, with players hearing only gaming machine sounds;
- earphones may reduce the capacity for venue staff to engage with players and to stage appropriate interventions;
- problem gamblers who state gaming machines are their highest spend activity are more likely to play gaming machines alone and play gaming machines because of the escape they provide – the use of earphones may reinforce these behaviours; and
- earphones may increase the likelihood of problem gamblers entering a state colloquially referred to as 'the zone' where they are less able to exercise normal cognitive abilities of self-observation, appraise the value of money and see the consequences of their actions.
"Advertising for this technology referred to gaming machines having 'earphone plug ability to deeply immerse and engage players in game play,' which is clearly not consistent with the responsible gambling objectives enshrined in Victorian legislation," Mr O'Brien said.
"Banning such technology in Victoria is part of our commitment to reducing the harm caused by problem gambling, which is why we have committed $150 million to establish the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation.
"This Foundation will undertake problem gambling research, develop and implement communication and education strategies, and work with established organisations such as Gamblers Help to deliver counselling and treatment services."