What is Pre-Commitment?

There has been much recent public discussion about gaming machine pre-commitment in the media. This article explains what is meant by 'pre-commitment' and provides a simple description of how it works and some of the issues.

The purpose of pre-commitment

Pre-commitment provides a restriction on gaming machine expenditure to prevent players spending more money than they originally intended. This is achieved by fixing a maximum limit on losses before the commencement of play.

Some people find it hard to stop playing gaming machines once they start, so it is thought they would benefit if they fixed the maximum amount of money they were willing to lose. Once they reached their nominated limit, they would have to stop gambling (or receive a warning that the limit had been reached).

In its recent report, the Productivity Commission recommended the introduction of a pre-commitment regime. Victoria is already introducing pre-commitment.

How would pre-commitment work?

Before playing a gaming machine, the player would have to apply for a card, similar to a loyalty card, which would be programmed with the player's identifying information and the player would nominate their maximum daily/weekly spending limit. A player would only be allowed one card, which would be needed to play any machine in the State.

The player would insert the card into a reader on the gaming machine before commencing to play the machine. The machine would identify the player. The player would then gamble and the player's expenditure would be recorded. Once the player reached their predetermined spending limit, the machine would stop and the player would not be able to continue gambling for the rest of that day or week. Because the same card would be needed to play any machine, the player would be prevented from playing any machine throughout the State. The next day or week, the spending limit would be reset and the player could then gamble again. (another version of pre-commitment provides a warning to the player that their limit has been reached, but allows the player to then choose to continue to gamble beyond their limit).

The player would also have access to their transaction history which would assist them in understanding the actual cost of their gambling.

The player card would need to be linked with an identification system, to prevent players using other people's cards when theirs had reached the limit.

The Productivity Commission recommended that players be allowed to set their own spending limit with an option for them to choose unlimited gambling. Those that chose unlimited gambling would receive periodic checks that this remained their preference.

Occasional gamblers would be able to spend small amounts of money on gaming machines without registering for the pre-commitment system.


How effective would pre-commitment be?

It is difficult to predict the results of a pre-commitment scheme in helping people control their gambling expenditure. Trials in Queensland, South Australia and overseas have indicated some limited benefits.

The lack of enthusiasm for pre-commitment among gaming machine players

Australians have a dislike of being told what to do, and many gaming machine players may resent being forced to participate in a mandatory pre-commitment scheme. Participation in the voluntary pre-commitment trials in Queensland and South Australia was low, indicating a lack of enthusiasm for pre-commitment. There is a risk that problem gamblers will be the group of players most likely to opt out of pre-commitment.

The cost of pre-commitment schemes

There is a significant cost in implementing and maintaining pre-commitment schemes and the gaming industry is concerned that the administrative aspects of pre-commitment may deter gaming machine players from playing at all.

Privacy concerns

Gaming machine players will be concerned about the collection of their sensitive personal information and how that might be used by government agencies or others without their consent.

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