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Australians Slam Redemption As 'Kiddie Gambling'

Posted On: 7/16/2010

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SYDNEY, Australia -- Redemption operations and merchandising games with high-value prizes like iPods and TVs are increasingly under fire from some quarters in the land Down Under, who charge they corrupt children to become lifelong gambling addicts.

According to press reports, some Australian politicians have called for a ban on redemption and merchandising games. Meanwhile, national government officials have vowed to target any games that are not "pure skill" as illegal games of chance.

On July 4, the Sydney Morning Herald published an editorial that condemns redemption under the headline, "No redeeming features to children's gambling games."

The editorial argued that redemption games should be banned. "The devices are to gaming machines what chocolate-flavored cigarettes and wine coolers are to smoking and drinking: a way of giving the young a palatable taste of adult entertainment. Smoking and drinking are potentially addictive behaviors. Unfortunately, gambling is too," the paper said.

The editorial also charged that redemption game manufacturers deliberately copy the cabinet designs and visual attraction features used in adult poker games. It reported a university study that claimed "pathological gamblers were significantly more likely to have been players of video and arcade games."

In Australia's Federal Parliament, Sen. Nick Xenophon announced he will introduce a nationwide ban on redemption (and merchandiser) games. A political ally will introduce a companion bill in the South Australian Legislature.

Elected on an antigambling platform, Xenophon failed to get such a ban adopted in his native South Australia. But he now insists that the escalating value of merchandiser prizes lends growing urgency to the issue. "I don't want kids of today to become the gambling addicts of tomorrow," he said.

The director of Australia's Independent Gambling Authority appears to be responding to growing public attention to the issue. He said IGA's next "code of practice review" will focus on arcade games, and that any machines that are not "pure games of skill" will be classified as illegal.