Any poker player planning a trip to Australia had better think twice. Australia’s poker machines, also known as “pokies” down under, have been branded as the hungriest in the entire world, often sucking up the average weekly wage in less than an hour.

A warning released by the Australian Federal Government comes in light of an investigation that began this week with the aim of attacking problem gambling in the land of Fosters and Kangaroos. Crocodile Dundee cannot be pleased at the rate in which his fellow countrymen are losing their hard earned beer money to slot machines instead of local pub owners.

In a move to reduce the amount of money being lost to casinos, the Victoria Government has made concerted efforts towards banning automatic teller machines from poker venues. The idea being that players will bring no more than the precise amount of money they are willing to lose while at casinos instead of becoming desperate and taking out the rest of their hard earned money only to lose it through gambling.

Monash University researcher Dr. Charles Livingstone has discovered that certain popular gaming machines have consumed $1200 or more in a single hour. “When you can press the button once every 2.14 seconds, basically it's remarkably easy to lose hundreds or thousands of dollars an hour on a poker machine,” he said.

“I'm not suggesting that everyone who plays the pokies does lose $1200 an hour, but it is certainly easy to do.”

Tom Costello, a vocal anti-pokies campaigner, describes such loss rates as unacceptably high and argues that the current system simply preys on vulnerable problem-gamblers. “That's just evil," he said. "I wouldn't be raising my voice if you had payouts where you could lose a maximum of $100 an hour or $150 maybe. People would still be able to play. The industry would still be getting revenue, but at a lower cost to the consumer.”

Despite the attacks from the government and private third-parties, the Australian Gaming Machine Manufacturers Association released a statement last night decrying the government’s statements as “outrageous and baseless”.

According to the association there are poker machines that are even faster abroad. They claim that the spin rate can be fast-forwarded to tenths of a second or less.

The current investigation by the Federal Government regarding problem gambling – to be conducted by Family and Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin – will look at options for reducing poker machine spin rates as well as introduce smart card technology that would allow players to pre-set their spending limits.

Macklin said that the government may also consider a complete ban of ATMs in gaming venues – a move that the Victorian Government agreed to yesterday and will try to have implemented until 2012. In another motion by Dr. Livingston, he has urged the government to cut back maximum bets and payouts in an effort to further minimize potential losses.

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