Safer gambling. Solve the pokies problem with design.

Any problem can be solved with design. 

Gambling needs to be made safer: “Australians spend nearly $12 billion a year on poker machines and three quarters of people who have a serious problem with gambling are pokie players.  As a community, we have a duty of care to make gambling on poker machines safer and protect people whose gambling is out of control.” (emphasis in bold added) http://www.problemgambling.gov.au/

The news today is all about progress on reform of poker machines.  (e.g. http://www.skynews.com.au/topstories/article.aspx?id=752819&vId=).  Some want more action, others less.  However the solutions seem complicated in design and might not work because they target the wrong issue.  Here’s why.  The thinking follows the a linear “fix the problem” through legislation approach. 

Linear thinking:

Problem = people lose too much money.

Linear solution = limit the amount they can lose (pre-committment total loss, bet limit, etc).

This is very complicated and focuses on the wrong issue (losing).  It is complicated because the solution in the case of pre-commitment must be individualised. 

Lateral thinking:

Problem = people lose too much money.

Solution = limit the amount they can win.

The problem manifests itself as “losing”.  But actually the problem is not the reality of losing, but the prospect of winning.  It would seem logical that problem gambling would reduce to a good degree if the maximum win was reduced to say $100.  It is known in safety science, in terms of danger, people overestimate the risks of improbable (but possible) dangerous events.  So too people can overestimate the prospect of a life-changing win.  However small, if there is one chance, it might happen.  Thus the key is to make the chance of a life-changing win = zero and limit the prospect to a “fun” size win. This would be a very simple solution because it does not have to be individualised and by logical reasoning would probably work. 

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About John Culvenor

Hi, Thank you for taking a look at this blog. I work in engineering, ergonomics, creativity, design, training, etc. Often this is about helping solve legal puzzles through accident analysis. Sometimes it is about thinking up better designs for equipment, workplaces, and systems. This blog is about good design and bad design, accident analysis and how it can be done better, and how we can make a better, safer world by design!
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