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At Australian casinos, the lights are on and the clock is ticking

5 February 2001

The Victorian government in Australia recently announced its plan to promote responsible gaming. Video poker operators are now being forced to install clocks on all of Victoria''s 30,000 poker machines by July 1 and to install brighter lighting to counter the hypnotic effect of the machines'' flashing lights, in a dramatic State Government reversal. Natural lighting or variable artificial lighting to indicate night and day could also become mandatory. The plan came as a shock since only three weeks ago, a senior minister claimed the reforms weren''t a priority. "Responsible gaming is not a problem," said Premier Steve Bracks, who detailed the plan, "but there is problem gaming which I understand is one of the scourges of our society we need to tackle head on." Victorians lose an estimated $2.2 billion each year on video poker. The state now has 100,000 problem gamblers, and a recent Herald Sun Quadrant poll showed 80 percent of Victorians felt the Bracks Government had not done enough to alleviate gambling addiction. The Sun also noted that the government''s tax take from video poker operators was almost $1 billion a year -- or 43 per cent of revenue. The announcement was welcomed by welfare groups but angered gaming operators, who claim the move will cost them millions. Tattersall''s and Tabcorp were also disappointed with a lack of consultation. "It came as a surprise to the industry," said Tattersall''s spokesman John Harris. "Depending on what sort of requirements are laid down by the government, it could be a considerable impost of many millions of dollars." Tabcorp spokeswoman Tricia Wunsch said the company had been taken by surprise. "Certainly we would have preferred for there to be some consultation," she said. The government is also planning more initiatives, including how to implement its regional caps policy and whether to regulate ATMs at gaming venues.

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