Ross Ferrar is chief executive of the Gaming Technologies Association, a not-for-profit industry association started in 1990. The GTA is the peak representative body for Australian gaming machine technology suppliers. Writing in The Mercury, a highly-rated Tasmanian publication, Ferrar outlines his philosophies on gambling and his attitudes towards the current opponents to Aussie machine operations.
Luck is luck and when you are gambling it all comes down to the odds. There’s no strange concept or grand conspiracy as some academics with fancy PhDs would have you believe.
It does not matter what product you are gambling on - whether it be on a poker machine, a horse race or the lotto - at the end of the day it all comes down to the odds or, in the case of poker machines, the mandated rate of return.
Poker machine games must, by law, be programmed so the statistical minimum return to player - the ratio of the total wins to the total turnover in a game cycle - is at least 85 per cent. Having said that, the majority of operators choose a higher rate of return, with an Australian average of 91 per cent.
For other forms of gambling there is no regulated return at all.
For poker machines, while the rate of return is fixed, no two players on a machine will ever have exactly the same experience because they are games of chance. The games themselves are completely randomised. But wins and losses are clearly displayed on all poker machines so that players can see their return.
Poker machines in Australia are powered by random number generators that ensure each and every result is entirely random. This is a fundamental principle that underpins the integrity of game play and is something regulators scrutinise very closely. In fact, Australian poker machine legislation and regulation is among the world’s most stringent.
Gaming opponents fail to acknowledge strict regulatory and compliance regimes imposed by state and territory governments and portray a simplistic view of a complex issue.
The fact is gaming products require approvals and licensing, as do the staff who operate them and the venues that house them. Every aspect of these machines is governed by stringent laws, regulations and standards to ensure integrity and fairness.
Complying with the myriad government requirements to approve a new gaming machine is a process that takes a minimum of 12 months to complete and sometimes much longer. This process includes submitting games and machines to independent and licensed testing facilities to ensure they comply with requirements, including those related to player fairness.
If a poker machine product is not approved by a state regulator, it does not appear in any venue. Once operational, machines are electronically monitored by state authorities to ensure they continue to comply with regulations throughout their operational life. Overall, these regulations ensure Australia’s poker machines are the world’s slowest and have some of the lowest maximum bet limits in the world.
Our industry acknowledges that problem gambling is an issue for some people and has been working closely with government and the community to minimise it.
Support services exist for those who may need them and the GTA strongly supports responsible gaming practices. Examples of responsible gaming features already in use in machines include restrictions on maximum wagers and maximum wins, player information displays and clocks and currency meters in dollars, as well as credits, on every screen.
There are also many venuebased measures such as voluntary pre-commitment, bans on extending credit, selfexclusion programmes (also statewide), information on machines and the odds of winning, and chaplaincy programmes.
These measures are all in addition to numerous responsible gambling initiatives administered by governments, industry and the notforprofit sector, including a significant investment in research, some of which is undertaken by the academics who oppose gambling. Poker machines are a legitimate leisure activity that many Australians enjoy responsibly.
The gaming industry, government, venues and the community in Australia will continue to work together to maintain a properly regulated and responsible industry to ensure those who choose to participate can do so appropriately.