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Thursday, 30 September 2010 19:53

Smart technology for problem gamblers: PM


The Government will investigate the use of a variety of "pre-commitment" technologies, including the possible use of a biometric fingerprint, to help track and curb the losses of problem gamblers, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said.

Government will review the findings of a June Productivity Commission report that recommended a progressive move over the next six years to pre-commitment systems that let poker machine players set binding limits on their losses.

Such technology can use smartcards or USB hardware that lets the player limit how much money they are prepared to lose in a session.

Ms Gillard said the Government would work with Tasmania independent Andrew Wilkie and South Australian senator Nick Xenophon on the issue of technology. Labor committed to taking action on problem gambling by 2014 as part of its agreement with Mr Wilkie in forming government earlier this month.

Mr Wilkie and Senator Xenophon were appointed to a joint select committee created yesterday to investigate the issue.

"We asked the productivity commission to look into it. It came back with a recommendation for this pre-commitment technology," the Prime Minister told a press conference in Canberra today.

"We obviously said we would work with Mr Andrew Wilkie, Senator Xenophon and in this Parliament to implement recommendations. But the Productivity Commission did not define which technology to use '¦ that has to be the subject of inquiry and discussion," she said.

"We will be looking at the whole range of technology that could be used to meet this aim of pre-commitment," she said.

Although Ms Gillard told the press conference that Senator Xenophon appeared pre-disposed to fingerprint technology, a spokesman for the senator said he did not have a preferred technology.

"He is waiting for the committee to evaluate all the options and make a recommendation," Senator Xenophon's spokesman told iTWire.

Clubs Australia executive director Anthony Ball called on the Prime Minister to rule out the possible use of fingerprint technology - which it says has been pushed by Senator Xenophon - because it treats gamblers "like criminals."

"In Australia we finger print criminals, not recreational gamblers who like to put a few dollars through the pokies at their local club," Mr Ball said.

"Recreational punters will understandably run a million miles from technology that records their gambling activity and even worse, scans their finger print," he said

"If the Government forces all Australians to register for a USB stick complete with finger print scanner, then clubs across the country will suffer a $2 billion reduction in annual revenue."

Senator Xenophon said Clubs NSW was "verballing" him and running a scare campaign on the issue.

The Productivity Commission report found that the number of Australians categorised as 'problem gamblers' ranges around 115,000, with people categorised as at 'moderate risk' ranging around 280,000.

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