Over the course of the past few years, the Australian government has enacted a number of responsible gambling measures that are aimed at curbing players’ gambling spending. One of these measures included displaying warning messages on poker machines to inform the player about how much money and time they have spent on a particular game.

The measure was deemed to be an effective method of curbing problem gambling rates, but it was not tested before it was implemented. However, a recent study of the system shines some light on the issue.

A study titled “Do warning signs on electronic gaming machines influence irrational cognitions?” was recently written by gambling researchers Sally M Monaghan, Lia Nower and Alex Blaszczynski. To compile date for the study, the research team interviewed 93 undergraduate students that were exposed to two different types of warning messages.

The first type of warning was a ‘standard message’. An example of this type of message is: “Your chance of winning the grand prize on a poker machine is no better than 1 in 1 million”. The second type of warning was an ‘informative message’. An example of this is: “The outcome of each game is randomly generated. It cannot be influenced by the machine or the player”.

After playing poker machines with these messages, the students were surveyed. They were asked about the messages they saw and if they could recall what the messages said. 95% stated that they had seen a sign on the game but only 9% had any recollection of what the sign actually said. 20% remembered that the message had to do with their chances of winning.

23% of respondents stated that the messaged had no effect on their gameplay. 10% stated that they stopped to reconsider their gambling spending while 6.5% stated that they were made more aware of their chances of winning and the game’s random outcomes. 9.7% of respondents who read the messages lost their belief that they could win while 34% continued playing to win.

“The qualitative responses of participants provide little support for signs as a harm-minimisation strategy,” reads the report’s conclusion.

The warning signs seem to be too passive to actually influence player’s gambling behaviour. It may be time for a new harm-minimisation measures for poker machines, such as new betting limits , banning ATMs from gaming venues or pre-commitment. Local politicians are currently debating which measures would be most effective in helping to curb problem gambling rates across the country.