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Former gambling addict loses landmark poker machine case aga

Source:sites edit:casino time:2018-02-02

James Packer’s Crown Resorts and Australia's biggest pokies manufacturer have been cleared of allegations that a popular line of poker machines is unlawfully deceptive and designed to feed addiction.

The Federal Court on Friday delivered the long-awaited decision on the Australian-first case in which a former pokies addict has claimed the well-known "Dolphin Treasure" poker machine was in breach of consumer law.

Shonica Guy said she lost 14 years of her life to the pokies.

Shonica Guy said she lost 14 years of her life to the pokies. Photo: Joe Castro

Justice Debbie Mortimer found the allegations against the ASX-listed gaming giants had not been proven, and threw the case out.

Since last year, Crown and pokies manufacturer Aristocrat Leisure have been fighting the lawsuit launched by Shonica Guy, 41, who argued that design features of the "Dolphin Treasure" poker machine were misleading to gamblers and fuelled addictive behaviour.

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Ms Guy, who said she lost 14 years of her life to the pokies, was represented by law firm Maurice Blackburn to make her case in the Federal Court.

The lawsuit claimed that design features of the "Dolphin Treasure" machine – including its uneven spread of symbols and the fact that the final reel has more symbols than the rest, allegedly making losses seem like "near misses" – were deceptive and misleading to gamblers.


It also alleged that gamblers were misled by overall losses that were often disguised as wins, and by the machine's information about the theoretical rate of "return to player".

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Lawyers for Ms Guy argued that "Dolphin Treasure's" advertised return rate of 87.8 per cent gave the impression that a player would retain 87.8 per cent of the money they bet while risking losing 12.2 per cent, when, in reality, that figure was calculated over the lifetime of a machine and includes jackpots that occasional players rarely won.

In the most damning part of her ruling, Justice Mortimer agreed with Ms Guy's claim that the "theoretical return to player" statements on the machines may be confusing to the ordinary gambler.

She said it was likely to be construed as an indication of how much "he or she as an individual" might expect to receive during the gambling session.

But that impression, Justice Mortimer said, would only be "fleeting".

Justice Mortimer found the poker machine's design features did not amount to misleading or unconscionable conduct.

"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."

Justice Mortimer found Crown and Aristocrat were compliant with consumer law, and had not engaged in the deceptive, misleading or unconscionable conducted alleged.

Outside court, Ms Guy said she was grateful for her day in court, "on behalf of all Australians who have been hurt by the pokies".

"I managed to get on top of my addiction but the sad reality is many people right across Australia can't do this, and the impacts are devastating," she said.

"I'm hopeful this can lead to a better way forward."

'First of many decisions'

Monash University professor of public health, Charles Livingstone, said he believed there would be many more cases against pokies companies to come.

"This, to me, is like the beginning of the issues around tobacco control," he said.


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