22 Oct 2015

Poker machines 'could breach consumer law'

3:45 pm on 22 October 2015

A potential landmark case to have poker machines declared in breach of Australian consumer law is being considered by a leading Melbourne law firm.

Maurice Blackburn said it was working with the Alliance for Gambling Reform on what legal strategies could be pursued to crack down on pokies.

Lawyer Jacob Varghese said they were exploring whether the machines breached consumer laws because they were designed to deceive users and encourage addictive behaviour.

Mr Varghese said the case was still in its early stages and had not yet been lodged in any state or federal court.

Mr Varghese said that under consumer law it was illegal to do things that were misleading and deceptive, but designers of pokie machines were making people think things were happening that were not actually happening.

"One of those things is losses described as wins, in which the machine will act as if you've won but really you've net-lost. You might have won 30 cents on the dollar you played.

"You've still lost 70 cents but you still get all the stimulus and reaction from the machine as if you've won. The neuroscience shows that gives you a little bit of a hit, and that hit is not dissimilar to the hit you get when you take a drug."

He said the design of the machines encouraged addictive behaviour.