In case brought by former gambling addict, court rules casino and machine developer Aristocrat Technologies did not breach consumer law. In February 2018 Australian Judge sided with Crown Resorts and Aristocrat after rejecting claims made by a former gambling addict that Aristocrat pokies were manufactured specifically to deceive players.
Last year this landmark pokies case was brought in court where Crown Casino got involved against Shonica Guy a pokie problem gambler who claimed that the slots machines at the Crown Resorts casino lure players like herself not to be able to stop when enough is enough. The pokies machine in question was Dolphin Treasure from Aristocrat. Aristocrat is the main pokies machines supplier to the crown casinos.
Shonica Guy, a former problem gambler, claimed that both casino and pokie manufacturer tried to deceive players with unrealistic beliefs about how the game operates. The Federal Court of Australia, however, decided the pokie machine in question, Dolphin Treasure, was legal and broke no laws.
The lawsuit against both casino and manufacturer was filed in September last year after Guy stated she had lost 14 years of her life due to an ongoing gambling addiction. Guy hoped that some culpability for gambling addictions would be given to the gaming industry. Guy stated in her lawsuit that not only addicts should shoulder the blame for gambling addictions.
Crapy bet in Dolphin Treasure pokies was blamed for deciet
Lawyers representing Guy, Ron Merkel and Peter Gray , argued the machines were designed unfairly and players were not properly informed about their prospects of winning, which they argued was a breach of consumer law.
But delivering the judgement in Melbourne the justice Debra Mortimer after a three-week hearing in September 2017, found the design features of the machine did not amount to misleading or unconscionable conduct. While she said an ordinary gambler may find information on gambling machines about returns confusing, “I have found any such impression formed would be dispelled as soon as she or he actually starts gambling and the randomness of the operation of the machine and returns become apparent”.
“The impression is fleeting and may cause confusion but it is not misleading or deceptive as the law defines those concepts,” Mortimer found. “I did not find anything in the conduct of Crown or Aristocrat that could be characterised as unconscionable.”
Both Crown and Aristocrat complied with regulations
Guy’s case focused on the Dolphin Treasure’s oversized fifth reel, which contains 44 symbols rather than the 30 featured on the first four reels. This design, which made it harder to land on the winning symbols, was impossible for players to notice, lawyers argued.
Further arguments addressed the “starving” of the reel – the appearance to the player that there is some regularity in the distribution of the symbols, when in fact the configurations are not even; allegedly insufficient information provided to players on display screens; and the alleged disguising of losses as wins through flashing lights and playing of sounds.
Those design features amounted to deception that no reasonable player would be aware of, Maurice Blackburn argued. They hoped the case would lead Crown and Aristocrat being forced to remove the machines or change their design.
There were 38 Dolphin Treasure machines on the Melbourne casino floor, the court previously heard. Lawyers chose to focus on that machine, first released in 1997, as it contains features common to other electronic gaming machines.
Mortimer added that it was not up to the court but regulators to determine whether gambling was ”desirable or undesirable”.
She said her findings should not diminish the accounts of Guy and other witnesses who had given evidence about the harm gambling had on their lives.
“I accept their evidence was genuine and acknowledge the courage it must have taken to give those accounts in a public forum,” Mortimer said. “Most of this evidence was not specific enough to contribute to proving the allegations made.”
She added that more research was needed into gambling. A professor of public health at Monash University who has studied the harms of gambling, Charles Livingstone, said he believed there would be many more cases brought against casinos and gambling machine manufacturers in future as new information was revealed.
“As we learn more about the relationship between gambling machines and addiction, and find out more about how these machines cause harm, then we can expect changes in how the law interprets these issues and how governments regulate the industry,” he said.
Pokies machines at Crown casinos advises about odds of games
Barrister Neil Young who represented Crown Casinos had argued that Guy lacks common sense because the pokies machines have always been unevenly distributed. He also mentioned how pokies machines at Crown Resorts casinos have information that advises them about the odds of getting a winning combination. He further supported his statement by saying that it is common sense for a player to read that information before playing.
According to the lawyer, the casino resort practices responsible gambling by handing out brochures that are government approved to their players. The brochures have information relating to the risks that involve playing pokies.
Young also made Justice Debbie Mortimer aware that Crown casinos make the pokies machines available to punters.