8/31/09 – One of Australia's favourite gambling vehicles – poker machine games commonly referred to as ‘pokies' – are at the centre of a new row building Downunder.
Eight of the 134 games approved since December 2007 have a level of volatility which is higher than that recommended by the Australia/New Zealand Gaming Machine National Standard, but their identities remain secret, reports the Aussie news site News.com.au.
The Australia/New Zealand Gaming Machine National Standard recommends the nominal standard deviation of a game be no more than 15, yet the eight machines exposed through Freedom of Information Act disclosures are alleged to have volatilities in excess of this number.
While all poker machine games must have a return to player of at least 87.5 percent, games with a low volatility pay out a larger number of small prizes. However, highly volatile games pay out a smaller number of large prizes.
The disclosures have been exacerbated by a bar on identifying the games because the information is deemed to be "commercially sensitive".
Independent MP Kris Hanna told News.com.au that the excessively volatile games were cheating punters. "While some receive higher jackpots, there is less return to players in between payouts," he said.
"The machines are already addictive enough without extra tricks. Gamblers should be told which games pay out less frequently."
However, Independent Gambling Authority director Robert Chappell said he was not concerned about the claims because the regulation was a guideline.
"This particular fact doesn't concern me," he said.
"It's a welcome development that the regulators have put limits on volatility because it enables us to be better assured games will resolve at their true return to player."
Australian Hotels Association SA general manager Ian Horne said if Chappell wasn't concerned, then no one should be.
"If the independent regulator has no concerns and they are qualified in this material, why would Kris Hanna have any concerns other than to cause mischief," he said.
"We have total confidence in the integrity of the approval system and anyone who suggests there is some manipulation here is being deliberately provocative for political gain."
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