The Poker-machine State in Australia: A Consideration of Ethical and Policy Issues

  • James Doughney


The ‘poker-machine state’ is a description of a state of affairs that exists in Victoria, Australia. We can describe this state in part by calculating one or another index to estimate the harmful impact of poker machines (high-intensity electronic gaming machines or EGMs). The nature of the poker-machine business means that this impact must occur. Full description, however, requires us to describe four additional aspects of the poker-machine state. First, heavy users of poker machines necessarily lose control. Second, the poker-machine state necessarily causes and constitutes harm. Third, our governments perpetrate the harm. Fourth, the agents of harm, business corporations, profit from the harm. The various aspects of this description provide evidence for the conclusion that the poker-machine state is unethical.


Gambling Ethics Social policy Poker machines EGMs 



My thanks to the editor and an anonymous reviewer for critical comments that, I hope, have strengthened this article. Of course, they bear no responsibility for its content.


  1. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (2003). George’s gold. 4 Corners. 13 October 2003. Retrieved April 11, 2005, from
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) (2003). Socio-economic indexes for areas, Australia 2001. (Cat. No. 2039.0). Canberra: ABS.Google Scholar
  3. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) (2005a). Taxation Revenue, Australia. (Cat. No. 5506.0). Retrieved April 17, 2005, from
  4. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) (2005b). Household income and income distribution, Australia. (Cat. No. 6523.0). Canberra: ABS.Google Scholar
  5. Australian Medical Association (1999). Position statement: Health effects of problem gambling. Retrieved April 17, 2005, from
  6. Breiter, H. C., Aharon, I., Kahneman, D., Dale, A., & Shizgal, P. (2001). Functional imaging of neural responses to expectancy and experience of monetary gains and losses. Neuron, 30, 619–639.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dickerson, M. G. (2003a). Reframing ‘responsible gambling’ as consumer protection. Submission to the IPART review of gambling harm minimization measures (ref:03/308). Retrieved November 25, 2005, from
  8. Dickerson, M. G. (2003b). Exploring the limits of “responsible gambling”: Harm minimization or consumer protection? Gambling Research (Journal of the National Association for Gambling Studies Australia), 15, 29–44.Google Scholar
  9. Dickerson, M. G. (2004). Measuring and modeling of impaired control: Implications for policy. Insight International Problem Gambling Conference. Nova Scotia, Canada, 5 October. Retrieved November 25, 2005, from
  10. Doughney, J. (2002). The poker machine state: Dilemmas in ethics, economics & governance. Melbourne: Common Ground Publishing
  11. Doughney, J. (2004). Living off immoral earnings: An ethical critique of the Victorian poker machine partnership. Australian Journal of Professional and Applied Ethics, 6(1), 20–35.Google Scholar
  12. Doughney, J. (2005). Moral description: Overcoming the fact-value dichotomy in social research. eCOMMUNITY: International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 2(2), 6–12.Google Scholar
  13. Gaita, R. (1999). A Common Humanity. Melbourne: Text.Google Scholar
  14. KPMG Consulting (2000). Longitudinal community impact study. Melbourne: Victorian Casino and Gaming Authority.Google Scholar
  15. Livingstone, C. (2001). The social economy of poker machine gambling in Victoria. International Gambling Studies, 1, 46–65 (September).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. McMillen, J., & Marshall, D. (2004). 2003 Victorian Longitudinal Attitudes Survey. GRP report no. 6. Melbourne: Gambling Research Panel.Google Scholar
  17. Middleton, J., & Manetta, J. (2002). Joint memorandum of advice. Unpublished legal opinion. Melbourne: Urban Seed Mission.Google Scholar
  18. O’Neil, M., Whetton, S., Dolman, B., Dolman, M., & Giannopoulus, V. (2005). Study of the Impact of Caps on Electronic Gaming Machines. Melbourne: Office of Gaming and Racing, Department of Justice of Victoria. Retrieved April 3, 2006, from
  19. Productivity Commission (1999). Australia’s Gambling Industries. Parts I & II. Canberra: Productivity Commission. Retrieved April 3, from
  20. Schellinck, T., & Schrans, T. (2004). 2003 Nova Scotia Gambling Prevalence Study Nova Scotia Office of Health Promotion, Final Report June 2004. Halifax: Nova Scotia Office of Health Promotion.Google Scholar
  21. Tattersall’s (2002). Customer Relationship Management Program: What Have We Learnt? Melbourne: Tattersall’s.Google Scholar
  22. Victorian Commission for Gaming Regulation (2005). Industry information. Retrieved November 7, 2005, from
  23. Walters, B. (2003). George’s gold. 4 Corners. 13 October 2003. Retrieved April 18, 2005, from

Copyright information

© Springer Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Victoria UniversityMelborneAustralia

Personalised recommendations