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Coles wants AU$1 maximum bets for pokies

By Caroline Watson
Wesfarmers, operator of Coles and other retail brands have reportedly looking to pursue harm-prevention modifications to its poker machines, otherwise known as “pokies”.

It has asked five pokie manufacturers, including Aristocrat Leisure, for help in trying out games with a maximum bet of AU$1. All of the operators have refused, apparently citing costs.

Similarly to Woolworths, Coles is a major player in the gambling industry, operating pokies through its hotels, with over 3,000 machines in Queensland and South Australia. Nonetheless, Coles seems to be slightly more concerned about these machines’ potential for harm than its retail rival.

Woolworth has around 12,000 slots and has firmly refused to impose a limit. The trade association, the Gaming Technologies Association (GTA), immediately issued a statement in which it outlined the costs for the proposed transformation, claiming it would amount to around AU$3bn.

The GTA’s Chief executive officer, Ross Ferrar comments: “As part of this engagement, GTA members have suggested a broad range of harm minimisation measures immediately available that have been widely adopted by other operators and venues.

“These include machine based measures, system measures (voluntary pre-commitment, enhanced player information displays and alarms) and venue-based programmes.”

Ferrar adds: “It is an indisputable fact that Australia has among the lowest maximum bets in the world for poker machines and that speed of play in Australia is among the slowest in the world. Our industry remains committed to progressing harm minimisation initiatives where they are shown to be effective.”

Reportedly, if the manufacturers continue to create obstacles, then Wesfarmers will exit the industry. A drastic move like that would put further pressure on a sector that is continually under attack from a number of different angles.
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