18 Sep 2013

New measure designed to deter pokie machine users in PNG

4:52 pm on 18 September 2013

It's hoped the increase in the minimum bet fee for Pokie machines in Papua New Guinea, will discourage low income earners from blowing their money on the gambling machines.

From the start of this month the fee to play on slot machines in PNG went from 50-to-100 kina or US$40.

The chairperson of the National Gaming Control Board, Qwentan Chollai, told Bridget Tunnicliffe that research found most of the problem gamblers are low to average income earners.

QWENTAN CHOLLAI: Based on the recent research on problem gambling it affects 3% of the population. I think it's around 200,000 to 225,000 gamblers in the country. 70% are problem gamblers - those are the ones that we are targetting.

BRIDGET TUNNICLIFFE: So 70% of the 200,000 to 225,000 are low-to-average income earners.

QC: Oh, right. The average is around 4,500 kina per fortnight.

BT: OK. So you hope that increasing the minimum bet fee will discourage people from using these machines?

QC: In fact, the increase is effective on 1 September. There is a decline in review, compared to the previous two weeks. So that's a good sign for our average-income families.

BT: So they've seen a decline in revenue?

QC: Revenue, yeah. Since the first two weeks of implementing that 100-kina minimum bet.

BT: What were you finding was happening. Were some people spending nearly their whole pay check on the gaming machines?

QC: Yes, definitely. And when they get their pay they use it all up at the gaming machines. Thereafter they go and get some private loans. And it becomes the norm. They live on credit borrowing. The government workers get paid on Tuesday pay-day, the government workers, the public servants. By the next day there's nothing left. So what they do, they ask for what we call 'booking money'. Those booking money [providers] charge 30%, 40% interest.

BT: Are there any counselling services for gambling addicts in Papua New Guinea?

QC: At the moment we're looking at creating a public counselling office within the department of community development. And hopefully that will minimise the problem gambling in Papua New Guinea.