Fifty years on, Australian casinos are being forced into change.
Fifty years after the gala opening of Australia's first casino, the gambling sector is in tatters. Image by Dan Peled/AAP PHOTOS
  • science and technology

Researchers to get world-first handle on pokie data

Luke Costin December 11, 2023

Pokies data from real players will be handed to researchers for the first time to address potential harm.

It’s hoped the world-first research starting in the coming weeks will poke past case studies and delve into player behaviour, what attracts them to slot machines and what supports can best reduce harm.

The University of Sydney’s Gambling Treatment and Research Clinic will receive anonymised gaming data and be able to anonymously survey players at West HQ, one of the country’s largest clubs and pokie operators.

Researchers will fully control the research design and evaluation, with results to be published publicly.

West HQ chief executive Richard Errington hopes the results from his western Sydney club will help the rest of the industry live up to best practice.

“We might be horrified at some of the outcomes but the fact is it’s going to be real,” he told AAP.

“I never fear the truth.”

West HQ CEO Richard Errington.
 Richard Errington hopes the data will help the rest of the industry live up to best practice. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

He said researchers approached the Rooty Hill club in 2022 after a decade of diversifying its revenue from a reliance on its 700 poker machines.

The club had also bristled with the direction of peak body ClubsNSW and been an early supporter of a move to cashless gaming.

Mr Errington said building theatres and other entertainment was part of becoming a destination where people could play pokies but it wasn’t the basis of their visit.

“We’re a very big venue that has gaming machines and that has a big effect on our community,” he said.

“To be able to continue our pursuit into finding the appropriate place for gaming, where it fits in our community, (we need) to look at attitudes and behaviours, to try and put gaming in a better and more responsible place.”

The research, funded through a $200,000 ClubGrants payment, will be separate to an imminent government-backed trial of cashless gaming, being led by an independent panel on gaming reform.

Almost 6000 of the state’s 87,515 poker machines have been offered up for the trial, ranging from a small regional hotel operating nine machines to all those in West HQ’s sprawling complex.

NSW remains the centre of pokie losses in Australia, with players losing a combined $22 million a day.