Fact Sheet

A number of myths, superstitions and false beliefs have grown up around poker machines.

GTA would like to give you some facts.


Summary of Key Facts

A number of inaccurate claims have been recently made regarding the gaming industry. It is important that this inaccurate information is corrected with facts:

  • Poker machines are designed to be entertaining, and are a legitimate leisure activity that many Australians enjoy responsibly.
  • Integrity, fairness, probity and harm minimisation relating to poker machines are paramount objectives of Australian gaming machine legislation, regulation and standards.
  • Australia has approximately 2.5 per cent of the world’s gaming machines.1
  • All poker machines and games are subject to an extensive approval and testing process with State and Territory government regulators. Every aspect of these machines is governed by a range of
    stringent legislation, regulations and standards to ensure integrity and fairness.
  • If a poker machine product is not approved by a State regulator it does not appear in any venue.
  • Complying with the myriad of government requirements to approve a gaming machine is a process that takes a minimum of 12 months to complete and sometimes much longer.
  • This process includes submitting games and machines to independent and licensed testing facilities to ensure Australians play compliant, safe and fun machines
  • Poker machines in Australia are powered by random number generators that ensure each and every result is entirely random. This is a fundamental principle that underpins the integrity of game play and is something regulators scrutinise very closely.
  • There are no “near miss” machines in Australia. Machines clearly display one of two possible outcomes — a win or a loss — for each and every bet.
  • Australia and New Zealand have the slowest machines in the world; they are designed and regulated to limit play speed.
  • Comparing poker machines to drug use is an illogical analogy that makes no meaningful contribution to the debate and wrongly implies that poker machine play is illegal.
  • The gaming industry supports the employment of many thousands of Australians. Poker machines are only a single part of an entertainment experience enjoyed by millions of Australians in pubs, clubs and other venues around Australia.
  • Problem gambling prevalence rates in Australia are on a downward trend. The gaming industry, government and the community have been working together for years to create a properly regulated and responsible industry. Examples of responsible gaming features include clocks and currency meters on every poker machine screen, in-venue and statewide self-exclusion programs and in-venue chaplaincy programs.

1 World Count of Gaming Machines, published March 2016

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Poker Machine Regulation
  • Australia’s poker machine industry is accountable to strict regulatory and compliance required by State and Territory Governments across Australia.
  • All suppliers are obliged to routinely provide regulators with full access to every aspect of their operations.
  • All poker machine suppliers must hold licences from the states and territories in which their machines operate. In order to receive licences, the operator must disclose their finances, their history and their activities in other jurisdictions in Australia and overseas.
  • Senior executives are personally licensed in each State and territory. This licensing process requires full ongoing disclosure of financial records including tax and bank records and full disclosure of their legal records.
  • All poker machines – and the games which operate on them – are submitted to independently accredited facilities for testing. The machines are then assessed by regulators before approval is considered.
  • No poker machine can legally operate anywhere in Australia unless it has previously been approved by the appropriate regulator and provided by a licensed poker machine supplier.
  • Our industry has a strong record of compliance with regulatory requirements and will continue to work to ensure confidence in the sector.

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Poker Machine Standards

Apart from prevailing standards such as electrical safety certifications, all poker machines are required to comply with the Australian/New Zealand Gaming Machine National Standard (“NS”).

The NS has been developed by Australasian regulators, in consultation with Accredited Test Facilities, Licensed dealers and others, to provide guidance for the design of gaming machines, game software and related equipment, and to provide a testable standard to ensure that common regulatory requirements will be met. Click here for the current NS.

In addition to the NS, a jurisdiction may provide a local Appendix – setting out any additional or differing requirements for their specific jurisdiction.

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Poker Machine Testing
  • The technical requirements that every game and machine must satisfy before it can be approved for distribution and play are developed and enforced by State and Territory regulators.
  • Every game and machine is tested by independent accredited testing facilities (ATFs) before being submitted to regulators for approval.
  • ATFs employ highly-skilled independent engineers, mathematicians and other technical specialists to assess gaming equipment against the technical requirements and make recommendations to regulators.
  • These recommendations are presented in the form of a test report and provide regulators with sufficient information to determine whether to approve a game or machine or not.
  • Like the machines and games, ATFs are subject to ongoing review by regulators with quality of testing and reporting output regularly scrutinised.
  • In some jurisdictions, ATFs are licensed under gaming legislation and undergo comprehensive probity investigations of the company, associated entities and, in some cases, those individuals testing the equipment.
    Once poker machines or related equipment have been approved by regulators and installed in venues, they are monitored to ensure ongoing compliance with the standards under which they were approved.

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Minimum and Maximum Bets
  • Every poker machine is programmed to have a minimum and maximum bet, with the minimum bet on most machines set at 1 cent.
  • A player electing to play at 1 cent per game will typically enjoy up to an hour’s entertainment for less than a dollar.
  • Players typically play every 6 seconds or so, taking into account breaks in game play such as free spins and other game features.
  • Each game has a maximum bet limit, which depending on jurisdiction is either $5 or $10. The purpose of having a range of options for game play is to give the player multiple choices.
  • Australia’s maximum bet limits are among the lowest in the world.
  • Poker machines are designed to return a standard amount of money to the player which in some jurisdictions is required by law to be more than 85 per cent. However, most operators choose a higher rate of return, with an Australian average of 91 per cent.
  • It is important to note that no two players will ever have exactly the same experience on poker machines, because they are games of chance.

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The Speed of Poker Machines

All poker machines in Australia and New Zealand have a reel spin of about three seconds duration. During the reel spin, the player is not able to interrupt the machine.

Everywhere else in the world, the player can interrupt the reel spin by re-pressing the PLAY button – which shortens the reel spin to potentially less than one-tenth of a second.

Players typically play every 6 seconds or so, taking into account breaks in game play such as free spins and other game features.

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World Count of Gaming Machines

Australia has 2.5 percent of world gaming machines, according to the 2016 global survey.

The World Count of Gaming Machines 2016 is a valuable source of objective data about global gaming machine numbers.

The 2016 edition of GTA’s annual worldwide survey of gaming machine numbers once again dispels myths around gaming machine numbers in Australia.

The survey reports the fact that Australia has 2.5 per cent of the world’s gaming machines, which is very similar to the figure GTA reported last year and far less than the 20 per cent figure which is commonly misreported by some public figures.

Information for this survey is sourced from regulatory bodies, government sources, private company research, gaming industry bodies and directly from locations where machines are installed. The data is verified across several authorities wherever available.

The machines that are counted in this survey are those that are legally installed. Where illegal machines exist, or where there is no regulation, the count is only based on the numbers of machines that can be verified. The survey also includes additional information, such as Maximum Bet limits.

This survey confirms that Australian gaming machines have some of the world’s lowest maximum bet limits which is consistent with what we have found in previous surveys. This is evidence of strong regulatory frameworks that ensure the integrity of Australian gaming machines.

To view the World Count of Gaming Machines results, click on your year of interest below:

2017   2016   2015   2014   2013   2011   2010

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Bank Note Acceptors

The use of bank note acceptors in poker machines does not appear to be reliably associated with problem gambling status, severity of problem gambling, amount of money spent or persistence of play, according to The University of Sydney Gambling Research Unit in its Assessment of the Impact of the Reconfiguration on Electronic Gaming Machines as Harm Minimisation Strategies for Problem Gambling of November 2001.

Click here for the research report

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Social Games

Social Games provide entertainment free of charge for most players; in almost all cases, no money is paid to play – and in all cases, no money is returned to players.

Social Games are played on Personal Computers, game consoles and portable devices including mobile telephones and tablets. It is estimated that 750 million people worldwide play social games and that this will continue to increase rapidly.

The social element typically means people play with, or directly against their friends or they participate in leader boards, chat rooms or share and compare progress via a social network.
A social gamer can choose to buy, using real money, additional features or ‘virtual goods’ like extra “Lives”, tools or maps which expand and enrich the game experience. However, the vast majority of games can be played without purchasing these extra features at any time throughout the life of the game play experience.

Social games are not gambling, because:

  • There is no requirement to pay anything to play (i.e. there is no Bet).
  • There is no award of money or anything of monetary value (i.e. there is no Win).

Examples of social games include Candy Crush, Farm Heroes, Papa Pear, Pet Rescue, Farm Story, Dragons of Atlantis. Then there are “massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) Like Age of Wushu and massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) like World of Warcraft.

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