Gambling is a public health issue in Australia, with millions of dollars wasted to electronic gambling machines (EGMs), sometimes known as pokies. This problem not only causes money losses, but it also contributes to compulsive gambling and addiction, which can have serious mental health effects for individuals and their families.
A new Gambling Research Australia-commissioned study investigates the impact of skill-based elements in EGMs and their potential to promote problem gambling and gambling-related damage. These EGMs with skill-based components are referred to as Skill-based Gambling Machines (SGMs) in the research “Skill-based Gambling in Australia.” A skill-based survey, an experimental study, and interviews with SGM gamblers are all part of the study.
To comprehend the study’s conclusions, it is necessary to distinguish between EGMs and SGMs. In EGMs, award outcomes are purely determined by chance. SGMs, on the other hand, incorporate skill-based components, allowing players to use strategy, physical dexterity, or knowledge to improve their chances of winning. SGMs add player skills into the calculation, whereas EGMs use random number generators.
According to the study, while SGMs give a different type of amusement than EGMs, they also create “heightened illusions of control over gambling outcomes.” These illusions, along with the extra complication of SGMs, may contribute to problem or at-risk gambling behavior. The study recognizes that SGMs provide new options for gambling operators, but warns that they may increase gambling damage and the risk of compulsive gambling.
“In particular, the skill-based experiment found that these games provide an illusion of control that heightens the impression that gamblers can affect game outcomes, putting people at risk of gambling problems and harm,” as highlighted in the “Skill-based Gambling in Australia” study.
Considering that EGMs already account for a significant share of gambling problems in Australia, the study emphasizes that the introduction of skill-based features to EGMs could exacerbate gambling harm nationwide.
Given the potential negative impact of SGMs, the study underscores the need for robust regulations to safeguard both current and future gamblers from excessive gambling and associated harm. The study stresses the importance of effective regulations that prioritize the protection of vulnerable groups, particularly males and younger generations, who are deemed high-risk concerning SGMs.
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